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1886 
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ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS 



THE LIFE 



OF 



Alexander H. Stephens. 



By FRANK H. NORTON, 



AUTHOR OF 



"The Life of Maj, Gen. Winfield S. Hancock;' Etc. 



Copyright, 1883, by John B. Alden, 



NEW YORK : 
JOHN B. ALDEN, PUBLISHEE. 

1886. 




TROW'S 

WHITING AND BOOKBINDING rfeMPAMT, 

NEW YORK. 



PUBLISHER'S NOTICE. 

By the kind permission of the artist and publisher, we are 
enabled to present our readers with an excellent portrait of 
Mr. Stephens, which is copied from Marshall's celebrated line 
engraving. This is considered by many of those most com- 
petent to judge, the only life-like and satisfactory portrait of 
the great Commoner yet produced, and on all hands is acknowl- 
edged to be without a superior. The plate is 22x28 inches in size, 
and is published by J. Howard Brown, of this City. 



CONTENTS. 

Chapter I. 

PAGE. 

Birth and parentage.— Early Life and Education.— 
Entrance upon a Legislative Career.. ... _ - 1 

Chapter II. 

Election to Congress. — Condition of Politics — The 
1 'Georgia Platform. "—Speech on the Mexican 
Treaty Question __ - 9 

Chapter III. 

Personal Characteristics and Style of Oratory. — 
" Know-nothingism " in Georgia. — Opinion of 
Mr. Stephens by a Georgia Historian. — The 
Assault on Him by Judge Cone. — He is attacked 
while unarmed, and nearly cut to pieces 19 

Chapter IY. 

The Political Campaign of 1860. — Address at 
Augusta, Ga., in 1859. — A Remarkable Predic- 
tion. — Important Address delivered before the 
Legislature at Milledgeville, Ga . _ . 30 

Chapter Y. 

The South Carolina Secession Ordinance, and Con- 
ventions in six other Southern States. — The 
Georgia Convention. — Mr. Stephens' Yiews on 
Secession. — He is elected a member of the 
Georgia Convention, and votes against Secession. 
— Elected Yice-President of the Confederacy. __ 41 



Chapter VI. 

PAGE. 

The "Corner-Stone" Speech at Savannah. — Mr. 
Stephens' Views Concerning Slavery. — Special 
Confederate Commissioner to Virginia. — Ad- 
dress at Eichmond before the Convention 49 

Chapter VII. 

Northern Impressions of Mr. Stephens. — Chagrin 
at his acceptance of Secession. — The real " con- 
sistency" of his action. — His Advice and Coun- 
sel to the South. — His Opinion of the import- 
ance of Cotton as a "commercial king." — His 
difference with the Confederate Government.. 60 

Chapter VIII. 

Mr. Stephens' ill health.— " Liberty Hall;" de- 
scription of his residence at Crawfordsville. — 
Home Life and Hospitalities. — Personal Appear- 
ance, as described by Rev. W. H. Milburn 68 

Chapter IX. 

Mr. Stephens' Generosity. — Aid to Struggling Talent. 
— His Appearance in the House of Represen- 
tatives. — Address before the Georgia Assembly 
in 1884. — The Hampton Roads Conference. — 
Arrest and Imprisonment of Mr. Stephens. — He 
is released, and devotes himself to Authorship. 
— His Death, and the Impressive Ceremonies of 
his Funeral - 76 



ALEXANDEE^AMILTON STEPHENS. 

CHAPTER I. 

BIRTH AND PARENTAGE. — EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION. 
ENTRANCE UPON A LEGISLATIVE CAREER. , 

Alexander Hamilton Stephens was born February 
2d, 1812. His father, Andrew B. Stephens, a fairly well- 
to-do planter, resided in Taliaferro County, Georgia, 
where young Alexander first saw the light. The elder 
Stephens died while his son was still a lad only fourteen 
years of age, up to which period the boy had only had 
brief and desultory intervals of school training; in fact, 
the most part of his younger days had been passed in 
the ordinary farm labors of a Southern plantation. His 
earliest practice in these labors would seem to have 
been in corn dropping, an art in which he soon became 
an expert. At the age of eleven he commenced plough- 
ing, and by the following year was one of the regular 
ploughers on the farm. As he also ran all the errands, 
was inill-bojr, shop-boy, and did, in fact, all the little 
jobs that fall to a lad so situated, it will readily be per- 
ceived that his opportunities for schooling must have 
been few and far between. 

At fifteen, his acquirements could be enumerated 
in a few words. He could read well, and was a specially 



2 THE LIFE OF 

accurate and successful speller, usually leading his 
class in this branch of learning; he could also 
write, and had ciphered as far a3 the single rule 
of three. This much of learning was oerhaps not an 
unfavorable equipment for a boy of the age of young 
Stephens, other things being equal; but in his case, 
other things were very far from being equal. He had 
lost his mother while still an infant, a misfortune which 
doubtless had much to do with his puny physical organ- 
ization. However this may be, he was handicappeJ 
from the start by a physical condition which, during 
all his life, seldom ceased to cause him suffering, and 
to render whatever labors he performed more than 
usually arduous. 

His father died in 1828, leaving several children, he 
having married a second time. The paternal estate was 
sold and the proceeds divided, affording about the sum 
of four hundred and fifty dollars to each child. By the 
laws of the State of Gsorgia, this capital could not be 
expended, but must be invested, the interest only be- 
coming available to aid in the support of the heir, 
"^oung Alexander was taken in charge by an uncle 
^ving in the neighborhood, who kindly offered him a 
home free of expense for board, thus enabling him to 
devote the accumulation on this small patrimony, at 
eight per cent, interest, to paying for his tuition and 
clothing. 

The boy had already begun to attract the attention 
of those with whom he was brought in contact, on ac- 
count of the prevailing characteristics which he dis- 
played, whether in the prosecution of his labors on the 
plantation, or.in his devotion to his studies at school. 
It had begun to be pretty generally accepted in the 
neighborhood, that young Stephens was a boy, not only 



ALEXANDER E. STEPHENS. 3 

of "promise," but of performance. An industrious 
habit, a spirit of perseverance seldom seen in one so 
young, and a rather ambitious turn of character— 
these elements had begun, dimly, but significantly, 
to suggest the nature of the boy who was to become 
the most distinguished personage in the State. 

There would appear to have been a good deal of kind- 
ly feeling prevalent in the locality where Alexander 
Stephens had the good fortune to be born. In his in- 
stance it took the direction of a recognition of qualities 
above the average, and a generous determination to 
afford their possessor all the advantages which it was 
practicable to gain from them. 

A perfectly unintended and innocent misunderstand- 
ing at this point, helped forward, curiously enough, 
the designs of the friends of young Stephens and his 
own necessities. 

Probably on account of his constant weakness and 
frequent ill health, the boy's disposition had seemingly 
become, to a certain extent, morbid; a state, indeed, in 
which it remained at intervals all through his life. At 
this period, not unnaturally, he was somewhat de- 
spondent; and, as is frequently the case in sensitive 
children, this phase displayed itself for the time being, 
in a religious tendency. In the Sunday School which 
he attended, he became noticed for ihc seriousness of 
his demeanor, and Ins apparent sympathy with holy 
things. Attention being thus directed towards him, 
soi-ie gentlemen and ladies in the neighborhood inter- 
ested themselves in his welfare, and intervened to 
procure him a better education than was open to him 
in the locr.1 school. An arrangement was accordingly 
ma^lc, (but only, end because of his owu fixed deter- 
min^tion as to that, on the understanding that the 



4 THE LIFE OF 

expenses incurred were to be refunded by the 
boy,) and he was sent to the Academy in Wash- 
ington, Georgia, at that time a classical school 
in high repute. This academy was under the super- 
intendence of Rev. Alexander Hamilton Webster, 
as to whom, and concerning his after influence over 
his pupil, it is sufficient to say that the latter adopted 
the second name of Mr, Webster as his own, young 
Stephens having only been christened Alexander. Mr. 
Webster was, in fact, greatly pleased with the lad, and 
as he had in charge the Presbyterian church in Wash- 
ington, he lost no time in inducting the lad into church 
membership. Indeed, the general design which at this 
time surrounded Stephens, and directed his life, would 
appear to have originated in what he termed a mis- 
understanding — the supposition that he could be in- 
duced to enter the ministry. It is certain that to this 
design the young man himself was not a party, and 
that he felt deep chagrin when he discovered, toward 
the close of his educational period, that it had existed. 
No one who considers the interest of the State of Georgia 
or of the country at large, can fail to recognize that such 
a determination as that of Alexander H. Stephens to 
the pulpit — while it would have certainly been a gain 
to the latter — would have been a state and national loss 
and grievance. 

As illustrative of the rapidity with which the young 
man acquired knowledge, it may be observed that he 
completed his studies at Washington preparatory to 
entering college, in nine months, taking his place in the 
freshman class of the State University at Athens, 
known as Franklin College, in August, 1828. He 
graduated in 1832, borrowed enough money from 
hir: elder brother to discharge his indebtedness for his 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHEN'S. 5 

education, and at once sought a position as a teacher. 
He found little difficulty in obtaining what he desired 
in this direction, and both as a public teacher and as 
private tutor, displayed such marked abilities, and was 
so successful in training and educating the young, that 
he had no difficulty in earning a fair support. In the 
Spring of 1834, he began the study of law in Crawfords- 
ville, where also he took a small position in the Sheriff's 
office. On the 22nd day of July of the same year, he 
was admitted to the Bar, being complimented on the 
examination for having presented a more than usually 
successful appearance. Refusing a good offer of a 
partnership in Columbus, Georgia, Mr. Stephens settled 
down to such law practice as he could obtain in Craw- 
fords ville and vicinity, living " on six dollars a month, 
making his own fires, blacking his own boots > and 
earning four hundred dollars the first year." 

The period immediately succeeding his admission to 
the Bar, or for the next few years, was, to the young 
lawyer, one of sore straits and great doubt as to the 
probabilities of success. He was poor, sickly, without 
influential backing, having, as it would appear, nothing 
in his favor, save a determination to persevere, and un- 
bounded industry; that behind all this, awakening and 
impelling these faculties, lay the great dominant force 
of native genius, was at this time as little appreciated 
by Alexander H. Stephens as it was by the towns- 
people and surrounding planters, who so often scoffed 
at his puny figure and laughed at his disproportionate 
ambition. This was the fact, however, and in try- 
ing his very first case of importance, Stephens displayed 
a combination of qualities which at once awakened the 
admiration of those who witnessed the exhibition. 



6 THE LIFE OF 

The case was one which involved the possession and 
legal guardianship of a chill, Tiij rival claimants being 
the mother and the paternal grandfather. This situation 
gave Stephens his first opportunity for displaying his 
wonderful powers in addressing a jury, and his skill 
in turning circumstances and conditions to the advan- 
tage of his case. It is needless to say that he won the 
latter, having moreover produced the most profound 
impression ever known in that circuit in connection 
with so yning a lawyer. 

The Bar of the northern circuit of Georgia con- 
tained at this time a dozen men whose peers it would 
have been difficult to have found in any state in the 
Union. Robert Toombs, Francis H. Cone, Joseph H. 
Lumpkin, and William C. Dawson, had national repu- 
tations. With these men Stephens was brought into im- 
mediate rivalry, and within two years was considered 
the equal of any one of them. During this period he 
was fortunate also in having exceptionally good health, 
although in 1836 his weight was only ninety-six pounds, 
this being, however, more than he had ever weighed 
before. 

In the year last named, Stephens was nominated for 
the lower house of the General Assembly of the State, 
and elected in spite of serious opposition. Although 
only twenty-four years of age, he had made himself 
obnoxious to a certain class of the community by his pro- 
nounced stand against certain favorite political and 
social dogmas. He was the open enemy of nullification ; 
this doctrine was specially favored in that county, 
and it required no little courage to oppose it Sim- 
ilar was the case with regard to the treatment 
of " abolitionists " who ventured into the district for 
the purpose of circulating incendiary documents among 



ALEXANDER E. STEPHENS. 7 

the slaves. Several counties in Georgia had formed 
vigilance committees for the purpose of the arrest and 
summary punishment of these invaders, and a similar 
organization was now proposed for the county of Tal- 
liaferro. Against this proposition Stephens flung him- 
self almost single-handed in the debates which occurred 
in regard to it, at the public meetings which were held 
for the purpose of indorsing and following the course 
of the other counties. Public feeling ran very high on 
this question, as would be supposed, and it required a 
vast amount of moral courage to face it; but Stephens 
placed himself firmly on the supremacy of the law, and 
from this position nothing could move him. In the 
course of the debates, he signally manifested the powers 
which, later on in life, were to become of such grave 
importance in a broader field and larger arena. 
Persuasion and stern injunction, by turns, sustained 
by an extraordinary accumulation of legal lore and 
illustration — extraordinary for one so young and inex- 
perienced — the adroit use of these weapons resulted in 
the success of the brilliant young orator; the resolutions 
in favor of the vigilance committee were defeated by a 
large majority. The result of this incident, as we have 
signified, was to awaken a widespread spirit of opposi- 
tion, when Mr. Stephens appeared before the county 
as a candidate for the Assembly. Despite this, how- 
ever, and though he was seized just at the time of the 
election with a serious attack of illness, he defeated his 
antagonist by nearly two to one. 

During the first session which he attended at Mlli- 
edgeville, the state capitol, Stephens was sick most of 
the time, but even under such adverse circumstances, 
and in a body of men distinguished for ability, suc- 
ceeded in gaining for himself a high reputation both for 



8 THE LIFE OF 

his forensic ability and for his good judgment and 
general accuracy. The style of Mr. Stephens' oratory 
may be best indicated by the following quotation from 
a letter written by him during this, his first legislative 
experience. 

" I have, since I came here, come to the conclusion 
that words are— if you please— moral instruments capa- 
ble of effecting much, when properly applied and 
directed. And it is altogether useless, at any and all 
times to talk, without having in view some object to 
effect. In legislating in Georgia, it is waste of breath 
for a man to talk about Greece and Rome, Scipio and 
Hannibal, Tyre and Carthage, or any of that learned 
sort of lore. If one indulges much in it, he is soon 
looked upon as a fool, speaking in an ' unknown 
tongue/ and very properly so too. Eloquence, true 
eloquence, is certainly in some degree an art ; but in 
nothing more than in selecting and fitting the matter to 
the time, place, and circumstances. The whole generation 
of our young orators, instead of reading Blair for rules, 
Scott and Addison for figures, and Byron and Shake- 
speare for quotations, had better be studying their sub- 
ject, and thinking to whom they are going to present 
it, and how they will most probably engage attention, 
and produce conviction in the minds of those to whom 
it is presented. Success in producing conviction is the 
object of oratory." 



CHAPTER II. 

ELECTION TO CONGRESS — CONDITION OF POLITICS— 
THE "GEORGIA PLATFORM" — SPEECH ON THE 
MEXICAN TREATY QUESTION. 

Mr. Stephens was re-elected to the assembly con- 
tinuously until 1841, when he positively declined re- 
election, the persistency with which ill-health had 
followed him having rendered it necessary that he 
should take a period of rest. In 1842, however, he was 
elected to the State Senate, which he left in the follow- 
ing year to enter Congress. 

By this time Mr. Stephens was considered one of the 
ablest lawyers in the state. He was also not unknown 
through the nation, having made a sea voyage as far 
as Boston, and also traveled over-land, visiting Sara- 
toga Springs, New York, Baltimore and Washington, 
and making the acquaintance of public men wherever 
he found himself. 

Politics throughout the country was nearing the 
transition period. In the interval between the down- 
fall of the old Whig party and the birth of the Kepub- 
lican party, there was to be a general divergence of 
parly lines, and a shaking up of party affiliations. 



10 THE LIFE OF 

Entering Congress as a Whig, Mr. Stephens continued 
to vote and work with that party until the period of its 
dissolution, at which time his opinions tending towards 
opposition to the strengthening abolition tendency of 
the North, he became identified with the " resistance 
party," as it was called, which, in the South was the 
inception of the pro-slavery and state rights Democracy 
of the future. 

Even to Washington City, Alexander H. Stephens' 
customary misfortune as regarded health, followed him 
with unfailing pertinacity. Immediately upon his arriv- 
al, after his election to Congress, he was stricken down, 
and was near dying. On entering, his right to his seat be- 
came the subject of contest, on account of an electional 
question existing between Congress and the States, but he 
gained his cause. Mr. Stephens voted for Harrison in 
1840, and for Clay, in opposition to Mr. Polk, in 1844. He 
favored the acquisition of Texas, but opposed the Mexi- 
can War, on constitutional principles. The admission 
of California into the Union in 1830, awakened a seces- 
sion movement in the South, to which Mr. Stephens 
was opposed. During the Autumn of that yeir, he 
traveled through his state, making speeches in every 
part of it, in behalf of the Union under the Constitu- 
tion. The " Georgia Platform," of 1850, becomes at 
this date an interesting document, signifying as it did, 
the awakened sensitiveness of the South on the subject 
of slavery. This platform contained five sections. 
The first set forth that the American Union was 
"secondary in importance only to the rights and prin- 
ciples it was designed to perpetuate." Second, that if the 
thirteen original parties to the compact found compro- 
mise necessary, the thirty-one in existence in 1850 might 
yield somewhat to preserve the integrity of the Union. 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 11 

Third, that the State of Gsorgia, while not approving, 
consented to abide by the action of Congress in regard 
to the admission of California; the suppression of the 
slave trade in the District of Columbia; the extradition 
of fugitive slaves, etc. Fourth, that the State of 
Georgia would and ought to resist, even to the point of 
severing its connection with the Union, "any future 
Act of Congress abolishing slavery in the District of 
Columbia, without the consent and petition of the 
slave holders thereof, or any Act abolishing slavery in 
places within the slaveholding states purchased by the 
United States for the erection of forts, magazines, 
arsenals, dock-yards, navy-yards, and other like 
purposes, or in any act suppressing the slave trade 
between slaveholding states, or in any refusal to 
admit as a state any territory applying, because of 
the existence of slavery therein, or in any act pro- 
hibiting the introduction of slaves into the terri- 
tories of Utah and New Mexico, or in any act repealing 
or materially modifying the laws now in force for the 
recovery of fugitive slaves." Fifth, " that it is the de- 
liberate opinion of this Convention that, upon the 
faithful execution of the fugitive slave bill by the 
proper authorities depends the preservation of our much 
loved Union." Ten years later, in a speech which he 
made in Atlanta, Georgia, Hon. Stephen A. Douglas 
said of these five propositions that "each of them was 
just and right of itself. I stand by each of them to-day. 
I have stood by them from the tim3 1 entered public life 

down to this hour I am told that some of 

those opposed to me are in the habit of saying that I 
construe the Georgia Platform differently from what 
they do. I never construed it at all. It is so plain that 
it does not admit of any two constructions. It con- 



12 THE LIFE OF 

strues itself; but if there is any doubt, any possible 
ambiguity upon that point, I will take Georgia's own 
construction of it. The Georgia Platform was predi- 
cated upon the principles incorporated in the com- 
promise measures of 1850." 

It has been deemed desirable to quote to this extent 
from the current political history of the period in ques- 
tion, with the view of indicating the nativity and 
growth of the opinions which from that time forward 
dictated the important acts of Alexander H. Stephens. 
Upon the foundation afforded by the Platform whose 
propositions we have enumerated was based the consti- 
tutional Union party. It is a remarkable fact in the 
political history of this country, that this party would 
have supported Daniel Webster, had that immortal 
statesman not closed his earthly career just before the 
election. It is stated as a fact that many persons in 
Georgia, and including Robert Toombs and Alexander 
H. Stephens, showed their respect for the great Ex- 
pounder of the Constitution by voting for him after he 
was dead. 

To recapitulate : In 1840 Mr. Stephens, as a state 
rights man, supported Harrison, in 1844 he supported 
Mr. Clay; in 1845 he was united with the Democratic 
party on the admission of Texas; but in 1846 and 1847 
he was with Mr. Calhoun and the Whig party on the 
Mexican war. In pursuance of this policy, Mr. 
Stephens supported General Taylor for election in 1848, 
and his administration until 1850, when he disapproved 
of it. In 1854, he defended the principles of the 
Kansas-Nebraska Act, which w 7 as claimed by him and 
by Judge Douglas to conform exactly to the principles 
affirmed by the compromise measures of 1850. 



ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS. 13 

The careful reader will have observed the exact con- 
sistency with which Mr. Stephens' political conclusions 
had agreed with himself — despite their not infrequent 
disagreement with party tenets; in fact, Alexander H. 
Stephens was in no sense a partisan. Throughout his 
life, he subordinated party fealty to principle, holding 
abstract justice highest in his esteem, and after that the 
good and policy of his country. Meanwhile, he did 
not permit his relations with men to be disturbed, or 
his regard for them to be alienated on account of polit- 
ical differences. Whenever any such incident occurred 
it was occasioned either by the parties themselves, or 
through the instrumentality of injudicious friends. 
While he refused to support General Scott for the 
Presidency in 1852, this was on account of the 
general's failure to endorse the principles of the 
compromise measures of 1850. So far was Mr. Stephens 
from not appreciating the general's military worth and 
his great public services, that it was mainly through 
his personal effort that the chieftain had conferred upon 
him the rank of Lieutenant General. Mr. Stephens' 
political life for this time concluded with the election 
of Mr. Buchanan, whom he had opposed. The quarrel 
between the latter and Judge Douglas he viewed with 
great disapproval, considering it not only unwise and 
impolitic, but unjust. Foreseeing the disruption of the 
Democratic party at the Charleston Convention, he re- 
tired to private life, fitly characterizing his own action 
by one of his quaint and original expressions: — " When 
I see the engineer is reckless, and expect a smash-up 
ahead, I always get off at the first station." 

As still further illustrating the peculiar nature of Mr. 
Stephens' mind, the firmness of his convictions, the 
fixedness of his purpose, and his remarkable prescience 



14 THE LIFE OF 

in tire consideration of affairs, we may quote from a 
speech made by him or the 12th of February, 1847, in 
the House of Representatives, on the question of the 
appropriation of three millions of dollars to enable the 
President to conclude a treaty with Mexico, he said : 

"Mr. Chairman: It is useless to attempt to disguise 
the fact or to affect to be blind to the truth that this 
country is now surrounded by difficulties of no ordinary 
magnitude, and fast approaching others which threaten 
to be far greater and more perilous than any which have 
ever been encountered since the foundation of the 
government. 

" It is true, the declaration was made the other day by 
a distinguished Senator in his place, that he saw no dan. 
gers about, he espied nothing in the prospect to cause 
alarm or apprehension, and that in" '.-, opinion, 4 thesen_ 
tinel upon his watch-tower might ring upon his post/ 
Sir, whether this sentiment was exprczzed by authority, 
and is to be taken as the exponent of the feelings of those 
who are now wielding so recklessly the destinies of the 
nation, I know not; but to me it seems somewhat 
kindred to, if not the legitimate offspring of that spirit 
which prompted Nero to indulge in music and dancing 
when Rome was in flames." 

After denouncing the attempt of the administration 
to prevent free speech concerning its acts, Mr. Stephens 
went on to speak of the unfair means used in the elec- 
tion of Mr. Polk; 

"But if, in the inscrutable ways of Providence, he 
who has been thus fraudulently elevated to power 
should be the ill-fated instrument of our chastisement, 
the punishment may be just, but he will take no honor 



ALEXANDER H t STEPHENS. 15 

in its execution. If the result of his mischievous 
counsels should in any way prove disastrous to our in. 
stitutions — the stability, harmony and permanency of 
the Government — which there is now abundant cause 
seriously to apprehend, he will certainly have no place 
in the grateful remembrance of mankind. Fame he 
will have ; but it will be of the character of that which 
perpetuates the name of Erostratus. And the more deeply 
blackened than even his, as the stately structure of this 
government, the temple of our liberties, is grander and 
more majestic than the far-famed magnificence of the 
Ephesian dome." 

" The crisis, sir, requires not only firmness of prin- 
ciple, but boldness of speech. As the immortal Tully 
said, in the days of Cataline, when Rome was threat- 
ened with the most imminent dangers, the time has 
come when the opinion of men should not be uttered by 
their voices only, but * inscription sit in fronte unius 
injusque quid de respublica sentit ' — it should even be writ- 
ten upon the forehead of each one what he thinks of the 
republic — there should be no concealment. In what -I 
have to say, therefore, I shall use that character of 
speech which I think befitting the time and occasion. " 

., Speaking of the Wilmot proviso and the resolutions 
of the Legislatures of the States of New York, Pennsyl- 
vania and Ohio, he said: 

"They show a fixed determination, on the part of 
the North, which is in a majority in this House, and 
ever will be hereafter, that if territory is acquired 
the institutions of the South shall be forever excluded 
from its limits. This is to be the condition attached to 
the bill upon your table ! What is to be the result of 
this matter? Will the South submit to this restriction? 



16 THE LIFE OF 

Will the North ultimately yield, or shall these two great 
sections of the Union be arrayed against each other? 
When the elements of discord are fully aroused, who 
shall direct the storm? Who does not know how this 
country was shaken to its very centre by the Missouri 
agitation ? 

" Should another such a scene occur, who shall be 
mighty enough to prevent the most disastrous conse- 
quences? The master spirit of that day is no longer in 
your councils. Shall another equally great and patri- 
otic ever be found? Let not gentlemen quiet their 
apprehensions by staving off this question. It has to 
be met, and better now than at a future day. It had 
better be decided now than after more blood and treas- 
ure have been spent in the pursuit of that which may 
ultimately be our ruin. 

"Upon the subject of slavery, about which so much has 
been said in this debate, I shall say but little. I do not 
think it necessary te enter into a defence of the charac- 
ter of the people of my section of the Union against 
the arguments of those who have been pleased to de- 
nounce that institution as wicked and sinful. It is 
sufficient for me and for them that the morality of that 
institution stands upon a basis as firm as the Bible; 
and by that code of morals we are content to abide 
until a better be furnished. Until Christianity be over- 
thrown, and some other system of ethics be substituted, 
the relation of master and slave can never be regarded 
as an offence against the divine laws. The character of 
our people speaks for itself, and a more generous, more 
liberal, more charitable, more benevolent, more phil- 
anthropic, and a more magnanimous people, I venture 
to say, are not to be found in any part of this or any 
other country. As to their piety, it is true, they have 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 17 

' none to boast of, ' but they are free from that Pharisa- 
ical sin of self -righteousness, which is so often displayed 
elsewhere, of forever thanking the Lord that they are 
not as other men are. . . But if bad counsels prevail, if 
all the solemn admonitions of the present and the past 
are disregarded— if the policy of the administration is 
to be carried out — if Mexico, ' the forbidden fruit/ is to 
be seized at every hazard, I very much fear that those 
who control public affairs, in their eager pursuit after 
the unenviable distinction of despoiling a neighboring 
republic, will have the still less enviable glory of look- 
ing back upon the shattered and broken fragments of 
their own confederacy. And instead of ' reveling in the 
halls of Montezuma,' of gloating over the ruins of the 
ancient cities of the Aztecs, they may be compelled to 
turn and behold in their rear another and a wider pros- 
pect of desolation, carncge and blood. 

"Mr. Chairman, it was askod by him who spake as 
man never spake, ' What shall a man be profited if he 
gain the whole world and lose his own soul?' And 
may I not, with reverence, ask what we shall be 
profited as a nation if we gain any part or even the 
whole of Mexico, and lose the Union, the soul of our 
political existence? The Union is not only the life but 
the soul of these states. It is this that gives them ani- 
mation, vigor, power, prosperity, greatness and renown; 
aid from this alone springs our hopes of immortality as 
a common people." 

This was, in many respects, a very remarkable 
speech. Stephens was, at this time, thirty-five years 
old, and the promise of his youth for ill health had, 
if anything, been exceeded by the peformance of 
his more mature years. At no moment was he well; 



18 THE LIFE OF 

usually his state was one of extreme feebleness and 
debility, changing occasionally to fits of alarming and 
serious illness. Such a condition must necessarily have 
preyed on his mind, and made efforts which to men 
in sound bodily condition, would have been compara- 
tively easy, to be with him, matters of extreme diffi- 
culty and struggle. It might have been expected that 
such a state would have aroused in him a degree of 
nervous irritability, which, in the excited condition of 
the times would have kept him embroiled in party and 
personal warfare; instead of which, his judgment 
seemed never to have been biased, his sense of justice 
perverted, his mental vision obscured; the consequence 
being that his life was serene and unperturbed, and he 
was able to enter into any contest, no matter how 
fiercely waged, on a plane higher than most of his com- 
peers, and consequently in a more certain approxi- 
mation to the right than they. In this speech we see 
him calm and dispassionate, yet eloquent. His intel- 
lect cuts like a two-edged sword, through the past and 
present into the future, and recognizes possible conclu- 
sions from present action, which not even the wisest, 
other than himself, could venture to predict. We have 
here his opinion with regard to slavery, concerning the 
nature and value of the Union, and in relation to the 
xmportant subjects of the acquisition of territory 
through the processes of war and conquest. As to each 
of these grave and important subjects, we see him 
rising to their own dignity and looking down upon the 
petty and selfish judgments of local politicians, in a spirit 
of grave displeasure and solemn warning. Viewed in 
this wise, this remarkable speech may be taken as, in 
very much, an index to the character of Alexander H. 
Stephens. 



CHAPTER III. 

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS AND STYLE OF ORATORY 
— " KNOW-NOTHINGISM " IN GEORGIA— OPINION OF 
MR. STEPHENS BY A GEORGIA HISTORIAN — THE 
ASSAULT ON HIM BY JUDGE CONE — HE IS AT- 
TACKED WHILE UNARMED, AND NEARLY CUT TO 
PIECES. 

As we have said, the great Georgian retired from 
public life in 1859, uncertain, doubtless, himself, as to 
how long that retirement might last. A writer at this 
time describing the prominent scenes and personages 
of Washington, alluded thus to the subject of our 
sketch • 

1 ' Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, one of the oldest mem- 
bers of the House of Representatives, is the most prom- 
inent man intellectually, and the most remarkable man 
physically, of the few remaining celebrities. From his 
infancy he has been an invalid, and the fearful effect 
of suffering is shown in his singularly delicate frame, 
in his pale, attenuated face, and in his feeble walk. A 
first introduction to Mr. Stephens fairly startles you, 
and it is utterly impossible to realize that there stands 
before you a man deservedly famous for his triumphs 
alike at the bar and the forum : that one so frail could, 



20 THE LIFE OF 

by his mental ability, give character to the legislation 
of a great people; but a few moments' conversation, 
however, only, are necessary to impress you with the 
feeling that you are in the presence of a remarkable 
man. There is the simplicity of a child in hi sman- 
ner, yet his rich and varied experience crowds upon 
you in anecdote and incident, in the statement of broad 
principles and philosophic reflections, and carries 
you away with the gentleness and the power of a 
deep and irresistible stream. His reminiscences of 
great men are charming beyond expression, and he 
seems particularly fond of dwelling upon the mental 
characteristics of such men as Crawford, Clay, Webster 
and their compeers, analyzing with singular perception 
their peculiarities, and by happy flashes of illustra- 
tion giving you a key to their characters — crystallizing 
them, indeed, until you could see through and through 
them and understand them as if you had a new sense 

of mental perception When Mr. Stephens 

rises to speak, there is a sort of electric communication 
among the audience, as if something was about to be 
uttered that was worth listening to. The loungers take 
their seats, and the talkers become silent, thus paying 
an involuntary compliment to Mr. Stephens' talents and 
high claims as a gentleman. At first his voice is 
scarcely distinguishable; but in a few moments you 
are surprised at its volume, and you are soon convinced 
that his lungs are in perfect order; and as his ideas flow, 
you are not surprised at the rapt attention he com- 
mands. His style of speaking is singularly polished; 
but he conceals his art, and appears, to the superficial 
observer, to be eloquent by inspiration. The leading 
characteristic of his mind is great practical good sense, 
for his arguments are always of the most solid and 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 21 

logical kind ; hence his permanent influence as a states- 
man, while his bright scintillation of wit and profuse 
adornment secure him a constant popularity as an 
orator. Possessed of a mind too great to be restrained 
by mere partisan influence, he has therefore the widest 
possible field of action — at one time heading a forlorn 
hope, and leading it to victory; at another giving grace 
and character to a triumphant majority. Common as 
it is to impugn the motives of many of our public 
servants, and charge them directly with corruption, 
Mr. Stephens has escaped without even the taint of 
suspicion; an inflexible honesty of purpose on his part, 
as a governing principle, is awarded to him by his 
veriest political foe. ,, 

An important period in Mr. Stephens' political life, 
was one to which we have hitherto only indirectly 
alluded, but as to which something more definite should 
be said. This was the period of " Know-nothingism," 
concerning which, in its relation to the State of Georgia, 
Col. I. W. Avery writes as follows : 

' ' Crushed in the national contest, and hopelessly 
riven in the Southern States, the Whig party found a 
temporary refuge in this new-fangled American party. 
It had a large following in Georgia for a while, and a 
respectable one too. It was bitterly fought. Ex-Gov. 
McDonald, Howell Cobb, Alex. H. Stephens, Robert 
Toombs, and Hiram Warner wrote strong letters against 
it, while Mr. Stephens made some of the ablest speeches 
of his career on this subject. The term of Mr. Stephens 
in Congress was out. He was uncertain of running 
again. He wrote a letter against "Know-nothingism," 
in response for a request for his views. He was vigor- 
ously assailed and declared to have made his political 



22 THE LIFE OF 

shroud, when with that defiant audacity that has 
marked his life, he announced his candidacy, and pro- 
ceeded to test the issue of his " political shroud." His 
speeches were masterpieces, and he converted the 
shroud into a wreath of political laurels, returning to 
Congress by a majority of over two thousand." 

It was characteristic of the conservatism of Mr. 
Stephens' nature, that he should have opposed 
the doctrines of " Know-nothingism," a leading 
element in which was the proscription of the for- 
eign-horn portion of the population on that ground 
alone, and without regard to other points of qual- 
ification. Inasmuch as we have quoted from Col- 
onel Avery, the brilliant author of the " History of 
the State of Georgia, from 1850 to 1881," we will give 
here this gentleman's summary of his opinion of Mr. 
Stephens, an opinion which, at the time it was written 
—1880— had become that of the better class of mind, 
not in Georgia alone, but in the whole South, and in 
the North as well, wherever the character of the man 
was understood. Col. Avery wrote of him as follows: 

" Another vital personality was that remarkable man, 
Alexander H. Stephens. He, too, was a Union man. It 
is hard to write about Alec Stephens. He has been all 
his life a human miracle. His advent into public life, 
nearly half a century ago, was, and his career ever 
since has continued to be, a wonder. Antithesis has 
been exhausted in describing the man, and yet there is 
no adequate portraiture of him. For forty years and 
more, Mr. Stephens has held a foremost place in the 
affairs of the State and Nation, and his name and 
speeches, overleaping the bounds of the continent, 
reached the old world, rendering him famous, and illus- 



ALEXANDER K STEPHENS. 23 

trating Georgia. His purity of life, public spirit, stain- 
less integrity, devotion to principle, love of truth, sim- 
plicity of character, munificent charity, lofty patriotism, 
independence of popular prejudice, sincerity of con- 
viction, indomitable courage, magnetic eloquence and 
vigorous statesmanship, have all been continuously dis- 
played in his long, useful and brilliant public career, 
and form a noble example for the imitation of our 
ambitious young men. 

"That a mind so powerful and a spirit so knightly 
should inhabit a body so diseased and frail, has 
been the miracle of his conspicuous life. At 
any time during his laborious and honored existence, 
his death could not have surprised; yet his physical 
frailty never impaired his public usefulness. Nearly 
seventy years of age, he is still at his post of duty, fill- 
ing in his own unequaled way the place in which he 
has won his proudest triumphs and most lasting fame — 
a congressman from Georgia, a representative of the 
people and chosen by the people — Georgia's great Com- 
moner, the people that he has loved so well and the 
state that he has so faithfully served and resplendently 
illustrated, delight to honor him, and hold his solid 
fame as one of her most precious heritages. 

" Mr. Stephens, too, was one of the strong Union men, 
and to the very last his potential voice was heard elo- 
quently protesting and unanswerably arguing against 
secession. Mr. Stephens has been a statesman and an 
orator, but the quality that more than all others has 
tended to give him his vast public influence, has been 
his wonderful moral intrepidity. It is a rare quality, 
heaven-born and God-like — such moral courage as he has 
shown all his life long. No adverse public opinion has 
had any terrors for this fearless statesman. Majorities 



24 THE LIFE OF 

have been utterly powerless to sway him. No unpopu- 
larity, no prejudice, no popular frenzy has ever moved 
his firm soul one hair's-breadth from any conviction, or 
prevented any utterance he deemed the truth. This is 
remarkable praise, but it is due to the man. But even 
the miraculous Stephens was unable to stem the revolu- 
tion. The storm was coming, and Toombs was its 
genius." 

This is indeed " remarkable praise," the more re- 
markable from being at the hands of a prominent Con- 
federate cavalry officer, who illustrates in his character- 
ization of Mr. Stephens, the general sense of justice 
which usually prevailed among the more intelligent 
Southern men, and also the profound impression which 
had been made by Mr. Stephens' extraordinary moral 
and mental endowments. 

And here, although the date of its occurrence was 
long before the period we have reached, 1860, we 
may relate a story illustrating the physical courage of 
Mr. Stephens, that of his rencontre with Judge Cone, 
which took place in 1848; we quote the report of this 
occurrence from a description of it given by a corre- 
spondent of the Cincinnati Commercial : 

" During Mr. Stephens' congressional service, and 
pending the campaign of 1848, he returned from Wash- 
ington to Georgia. He was fresh from the great debates 
on the acquisition of California and New Mexico as 
United States territories, and for having taken, against 
the wishes of a majority of the Southern members, a 
most prominent part in opposition co such acquisition, 
he was met with much adverse criticism. Judge Cone, 
who was at the time one of the leading politicians of 
Georgia" 1 , was particularly severe in his comments on 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 25 

Mr. Stephens' action, and was reported as having 
publicly denounced him as a traitor to the South. 

''Hardly had Mr. Stephens reached his home when 
these and similar reports were conveyed to him. At 
first he did not credit them, but as one kind friend 
after another informed him that Cone had called him 
a traitor, and advised, in the true Southern spirit, that 
he owed it to himself to demand what is called ' satis- 
faction,' the fires of pugnacity in his nature, which are 
always smouldering, hissed up, and he declared that if 
Judge Cone would admit having called him a traitor to 
the South he would ' slap his face.' Not long after this 
he met the Judge at a numerously attended Whig 
gathering, and going up to him quietly said: 

" ' Judge Cone, I have been told that you, for reasons 
of your own, have denounced me as a traitor to the 
South, and I take this opportunity of asking you if such 
reports are true. ' 

" 'No, sir,' was Cone's reply, 'they are not true. ' 

"*I am very glad to hear you say so,' said Mr. 
Stephens, cordially; and in the same friendly tone con- 
continued: ' Of course I do not desire to be in any way 
offensive to you, Judge Cone, but in order that we may 
have no further misunderstanding through the misrep- 
resentation of others, I think it right to tell you that I 
have said I would slap your face if you admitted having 
used the language attributed to you.' 

"Upon this the judge again disowned having spoken 
disrespectfully of Mr. Stephens, and so for the time the 
affair ended. It was the subject of discussion all over 
the State, however, and the general verdict was that 
Judge Cone, a very powerful man by the way, had 
shown the white feather to 'Little Aleck Stephens/ 
In such a community no public man resting under such 



26 THE LIFE OF 

a charge could hope either for political preferment or 
popular respect. Cone, of course, knew this, and, very 
much heated and annoyed by the comments which were 
being made upon him, wrote to Mr. Stephens demand- 
ing immediate and public retraction of the threat. In 
reply Mr. Stephens wrote that the threat of slapping the 
judge's face had been made contingent upon the truth 
of reports regarding which he (Mr. Cone) had pro- 
nounced to be untrue, and that such being the case there 
could be no cause for offence or angry feeling on 
either side. Unfortunately this letter was never re- 
ceived by Judge Cone. Three or four days after it 
was written, however, he met Mr. Stephens on the 
piazza of a hotel in Atlanta, and, disregarding that 
gentleman's friendly greeting, said in a very offensive 
tone: 

" * Mr. Stephens, I demand that you make an imme- 
diate retraction of your threats regarding me.* 

"Sick and weak though he was, Alexander H. 
Stephens could allow no one to speak to him in the 
fashion described. Judge Cone was a very giant in size 
and muscular development, yet the frail man whom he 
addressed, with aggravating politeness, and without 
hesitating a moment, replied: ' Pardon me, sir, I have 
already written to you on that subject. I must decline 
to discuss it further.' 

" ' Am I to take this for your answer? ' asked Cone, 
excitedly. 

" * It is the only answer I have to give you,' was the 
calm reply. 

" * Then I denounce you as a miserable little traitor,' 
cried Cone, mad with excitement. The last words had 
hardly left his lips when a light cane, wielded by the 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 27 

quick hand of the man he had insulted, left its red scar 
across his cheek. 

''Wild with pain and passion, without uttering a 
word, he drew a keen-pointed dirk knife and made 
one furious thrust at his weak ftttle adversary's 
heart. Instantly as he did so, however, Ste- 
phens, seizing a stout umbrella which he held 
in his left hand, interposed it as a defence, and was 
able for a moment to hold him at arm's length. 
The knife fell short of its mark. Once more 
it was thrust at Stephens, cutting a deep gash in his 
arm, but reaching no vital point; eighteen times it cut 
deep into his breast, arms and body, but still he did 
not fall. Then he could hold out no longer. ISTo cour- 
age, no spirit, however firm and unyielding, could long 
withstand such an attack. Cone was determined to 
finish his work. He threw all his great weight against 
the umbrella which held him away from the man he 
intended to kill. It broke; Stephens, half fainting, fell 
upon his back. The giant Cone was at his throat in a 
moment; his head, by a grip of iron, was held against 
the cruel floor; the keen and blood-dripping knife was 
held aloft before him ready for the last fatal thrust, but 
still the poor, pale face of the little hero was set and 
defiant — his black eyes still flashed undauntedly. 

" 'Retract, or I'll cut your cursed throat!' hissed 
Cone. 

" ' Cut! I'll never retract! ' gasped the almost lifeless 
Stephens." 

Like a flash the knife came down. With an almost 
superhuman effort the prostrate man caught it in his 
right hand. Clean through the muscles, tendons and 
bones of the hand it cut, then stuck fast and reached no 



28 THE LIFE OF 

vital part. With desperate strength Cone tried to 
wrench it free. With a grasp almost of death the hor- 
ribly mangled and mutilated hand still held it fa^t. In 
the struggb Stephens was once more dragged to his feet. 
The blood was rushing in streams from his many 
wounds. His hold upon the knife which sought his 
brave heart began to relax. He was dying. But even 
when he believed the next moment would be his last 
strong men came to his relief. The madman Cone was 
secured and held fast. 

1 'Then quickly the wounds which Mr, Stephens had 
received were examined. It was found that one of 
them had penetrated to within a sixteenth of an inch 
of his heart. An intercostal artery had been cut. The 
doctors declared that he would surely die. Happily 
their predictions were not verified. His life was saved 
by the unremitting care of a surgeon, his devoted 
friend, who, as good fortune would have it, happened 
to be in Atlanta at the time. When he recovered with 
magnanimity of which few men are capable even of 
understanding, he refused to prosecute Cone, and that 
person, instead of getting his deserts in the dark cell of 
a state prison, was fined $1 033, and, with his honor 
'vindicated/ was allowed to go free. To the day of 
his death Mr. Stephens spoke of him in terms of con- 
sideration and forgiveness. Not long ago, referring to 
the terrible struggle I have attempted to describe, and 
showing me the great hole in his mangled hand, he 
said, with a quiet and far away look in his deep dark 
eyes: * Poor Cone ! I'm sure he'd be sorry if he knew 
what trouble I have to write with these stiff fingers of 



ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 29 

This anecdote of Mr. Stephens' career has been pre- 
served, and is still told with considerable emphasis in 
Georgia, as illustrative of a state of society which, has 
been materially changed since. The present writer 
heard the incident impressively related during a recent 
visit to Atlanta, and came to the conclusion that it was 
the most sanguinary story in connection with common- 
place republican politics in the nineteenth century, that 
had ever come to his hearing. It properly fills a place 
in this sketch as significant of one feature of the poli- 
tics of the period in the South, and also as showing amid 
what social difficulties the rise of Alexander H. 
Stephens to pre-eminence was effected. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN OF 1860 — ADDRESS AT AU- 
GUSTA, GA., IN 1859 — A REMARKABLE PREDICTION 
— IMPORTANT ADDRESS DELIVERED BEFORE THE 
LEGISLATURE AT MILLEDGEVILLE, GA. 

In the Autumn of 1859, the name of Mr. Stephens was 
prominently mentioned as a candidate for the presi- 
dency. One of the leading statesmen of the South 
gave the following grounds for his nomination: 

1. " He is the undoubted choice of a large majority 
of the people of Georgia. 

2. "He is a true man and an enlightened practical 
statesman, who would administer the government with 
ability and economy, in strict accordance with the 
principles observed in the early and better days of the 
republic. 

3. " Because he is an available man for a candidate, 
the man for the times, enjoying the confidence and re- 
spect of the true friends of constitutional government 
throughout the Union. 

4. " Because he has not sought the office, -directly or 
indirectly, either by intriguing for the nomination or 
suffering himself to be made the instrument of any 
particular clique or faction; consequently, if nomi- 
nated and elected would have no friends to reward or 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 31 

enemies to punish, but will faithfully guard and pro- 
tect the interests of the whole country, and every 
section of it, in obedience to the Constitution and the 
laws of the land." 

The relations of Mr. Stephens to the memorable cam- 
paign which resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln 
to the presidency, and the downfall of African slavery 
in the South, were peculiar and impressive. As we 
have already shown, he had long foreseen the possibility 
of such a division of opinion between the two sections 
as should bring about antagonism certainly, possibly 
disunion. 

In the earlier part of the canvass, although frequently 
solicited to speak, he refused, partly from a sense of 
its probable inutility, and partly on account of the con- 
dition of his health, which was at this time very feeble. 
He was, however, induced to appear at a public meet- 
ing in Augusta, September 1, 1859, and to deliver an 
address, during which he was compelled to sit down 
from exhaustion. A considerable portion of this speech 
was devoted to an examination of the political position 
of Judge Douglas, one of the two Democratic candi. 
dates, and was practically a recommendation to his 
hearers to vote for that gentleman. Proceeding, he 
made the following emphatic reference to the condition 
of affairs : 

* ' I do not feel, fellow citizens, as if in justice to my- 
self I ought to attempt to say more to-night; but there 
is no cause in which I would more willingly die than in 
the cause of my country, and I would just as soon falj 
here, at this time, in the advocacy of those principles 
upon which its past glory has been achieved, its present 
prosperity and its future hopes depend, as anywhere 



32 THE LIFE OF 

else, or on any other occasion. I told you at the out- 
set that the signs of the times portend evil. I gave you 
this as my deliberate judgment; the future must make 
its own disclosures. But you must not be surprised 
to see these states, now so peaceful, contented, 
prosperous and happy, embroiled in civil war, in less 
than twelve months. There are occasions too grave for 
excitement or any appeal to the passions. Believe mc, 
I mean all I say; the most terrific tornadoes, those which 
demolish cities, destroy whole fleets and sweep every- 
thing before them, come most unexpectedly; so do the 
most violent revolutions amongst men. The human 
passions are the same everywhere. They are danger- 
ous elements for public men, politicians, and party 
leaders to deal with. The condition of the country 
threatens the most violent conflict of sectional feeling, 
antipathy and animosity at no distant day. Should 
an outbreak occur, where is the power that can con- 
trol it? A ball may be put in motion by one who 
cannot stop it; a fire may be kindled by hands that can- 
not quench it; those who begin revolutions seldom 
end them." 

During the progress of the campaign, Mr. Stephens 
made two or three other speeches, which were not re- 
ported. " His speech in Columbus, Georgia," says Mr. 
Cleveland, " was one of the grandest efforts of his life, 
and of most wonderful effect upon his audience. In 
the midst of his impressive appeal to ' stand by the Con_ 
stitution in any and every event,' the vast crowd arose to 
their feet as one man; and while venerable ministers of 
the gospel and dignified statesmen and citizens seemed 
to vie with each other in enthusiasm, the prolonged 
shouts of applause stopped for a while the utterance of 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 33 

the orator. " In his speech at Dal ton, Georgia, says the 
the same writer, " he arose with a borrowed expression 
of sad but sublime pity for the delusions and dissen- 
sions of his countrymen. ' Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem! 
thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which 
are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered 
thy children together even as a hen gathereth her 
chickens under her wings, but ye w r ould not!' His 
whole effort was to rouse the people to a sense of the 
impending danger, to impress upon them the great im- 
portance of adhering to their old established principles, 
and of sustaining throughout the common country 
those men who were standing by those principles, as 
the only means of maintaining the Constitution and the 
Union under it." 

Shortly after, Judge Douglas made a speech in 
Atlanta, in which, while expressing his own views in 
regard to the serious condition of the times, his re- 
marks significantly sustained the position occupied by 
Mr. Stephens. Mr. Douglas said, " I hold that there is 
no grievance of which we complain, for which disunion 
would afford an adequate remedy. I believe there can 
be no grievance in this country for which the Constitu- 
tion and laws will not afford ample remedy within the 
Union. All that is necessary is that each and every 
clause of the Constitution shall be carried into effect in 
good faith. Every right guaranteed by that instrument, 
every duty imposed by it, must be carefully protected 
and faithfully performed. So long as we live under a 
Constitution which is the supreme law of all the states, 
it must be executed in such a manner as to afford equal 
rights and equal protection to the citizens of all the 
states of this confederacy." 

2 



34 THE LIFE OF 

The election of Mr. Lincoln, which roused the South 
in opposition as one man, brought Mr. Stephens to 
the fore-front of battle, where, for a brief space he 
stood the most marked and emphatic figure of the 
tremendous agitation which was then beginning — 
alone, impressive and majestic, the bulwark of 
the Union against the fierce surges of secession 
and revolution, which now threatened to over- 
whelm it. On November 14, 1860, he went to Milledge- 
ville, where the Legislature was in session, and before 
whom he delivered and address which has become 
memorable and a part of the history of the period. 
From this important address we desire to quote at some 
length, since, although it exerted no perceptible influ- 
ence over the course of events, it furnishes material 
evidence both as to the character of Mr. Stephens and 
concerning his political convictions on ths great ques- 
tions at issue. After a few words of introduction, Mr. 
Stephens continued as follows : 

*' My object is not to stir up strife, but to allay it; not 
to appeal to your passions, but to your reason. Good 
government can never be built up or sustained by the 
impulse of passion. I wish to address myself to your 
good sense, to your good judgment, and if, after hear- 
ing, you disagree, let us agree to disagree, and part as 
we met, friends. We all have the same object, the 
same interest. That people should disagree in repub- 
lican governments upon questions of public policy is 
natural. That men should disagree upon all matters 
connected with human investigation, whether relating 
to science or human conduct, is natural. Hence, in 
free governments parties will arise. But a free people 
should express their different opinions with liberality 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 35 

and charity, with 110 acrimony toward those of their 
fellows, when honestly and sincerely given. These are 
my feelings to-night. 

"Let us, therefore, reason together. It is not my 
purpose to say aught to wound the feelings of any in- 
dividual who may be present ; and if in the ardency 
with which I shall express my opinions, I shall say any- 
thing which may be deemed too strong, let it be set 
down to the zeal with which I advocate my own con- 
victions. There is with me no intention to irritate or 
offend. 

"Fellow-citizens, we are all launched in the same 
bark ; we are all in the same craft in the wide political 
ocean — the same destiny awaits us all for weal or for 
woe. We have bsen launched in the good old ship that 
has been upon the waves for three quarters of a century, 
which has been in many tempests and storms, has 
many times been in peril, and patriots have often feared 
that they should have to give it up, yea, have at times 
almost given it up; but still the gallant ship is afloat. 
Though new storms now howl around us, and the 
tempest beats heavily against us, I say to you, don't 
give up the ship ; don't abandon her yet. If she can 
possibly be preserved, and our rights, interests, and 
security be maintained, the object is worth the efforts. 
Let us not, on account of disappointment and chagrin 
at the reverse of an election, give up all as lost. But 
let us see what can be done to prevent a wreck. . . 

" The first question that presents itself is, shall the 
people of the South secede from the Union in con- 
sequence of the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presi- 
dency of the United States? My countrymen, I tell 
you frankly, candidly and earnestly, that I do not 
think that they ought. In my judgment, the election 



36 THE LIFE OF 

of no man, constitutionally chosen to that high office, 
is sufficient cause for any State to separate from 
the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still* in 
maintaining the Constitution of the country. To make 
a point of resistance to the government, to withdraw 
from it because a man has been constitutionally elected, 
puts us in the wrong. We are pledged to maintain the 
Constitution. Many of us have sworn to support it. 
Can we, therefore, for the mere election of a man to 
the presidency, and that, too, in accordance with the 
prescribed forms of the Constitution, make a point of 
resistance to the government, without becoming the 
breakers of that sacred instrument ourselves, by with- 
drawing ourselves from it? Would we not be in the 
wrong? Whatever fate is to befall this country, let it 
never be laid to the charge of the people of the South, 
and especially to the people of Georgia, that we were 
untrue to our national engagements. Let the fault and 
the wrong rest upon others. If all our hopes are to be 
blasted, if the Republic is to go down, let us be found 
to the last moment standing on the deck with the Con 
stitution of the United States waving over our heads. 
(Applause). Let the fanatics of the North break the 
Constitution, if such is their fell purpose. Let the re- 
sponsibility be upon them. I shall speak, presently, 
more of their acts; but let not the South, let us not be 
the ones to commit the aggression. We went into the 
election with this people. The result was different from 
what we wished ; but the election has been constitu- 
tionally held. Were we to make a point of resistance to 
the government and go out of the Union on that account, 
the record would be made up hereafter against us. . . 
" My countrymen, I am not of those who believe this 
Union has been a curse up to this time. True men, 



ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS. 37 

men of integrity, entertain different views from me on 
this subject. I do not question their right to do so; I 
Would not impugn their motives in so doing. Nor will 
I undertake to say that this government of our fathers 
is perfect. There is nothing perfect in this world of 
human origin ; nothing connected with human nature, 
from man himself to any of his works. You may select 
the wisest and best men for your juuges, and yet how 
many defects are there in the administration of j astice ? 
You may select the wisest and best men for your legis- 
lators, and yet how many defects are apparent in your 
laws? And it is so in our government. But that this 
government of our fa'hers, with all its defects, comes 
nearer the objects of all good governments than any 
other on the face of the earth, is my settled convic- 
tion 

" It may be that we are all that we are in ' spite of 
the general government,' but it may be that without 
it we should have been far different from what we 
are now. It is true there is no equal part of the 
earth with natural resources superior, perhaps, to 
ours. That portion of this country known as 
the Southern States, stretching from the Chesa- 
peake to the Rio Grande, is fully equal to 
the picture drawn by the honorable and elo- 
quent senator last night, in all natural capacities. 
But how many ages, centuries, passed before these 
capacities were developed, to reach this advanced 
stage of civilization? There, these same hills, rich in 
ore, same rivers, same valleys and plains, are as they 
have been since . they came from the hand of the 
Creator. Uneducated and uncivilized men roamed 
over them, for how long no history informs us. 



38 1HE LIFE OF 

" It is only under our institutions that they could be 
developed. Their development is the result of the 
enterprise of our people under operations of the govern- 
ment and institutions under which we have lived. 
Even our people, without these, never would have 
done it. The organization of society has much to do 
with the development of the natural resources of any 
country or any land. The institutions of a people, 
political and moral, are the matrix in which the germ of 
their organic structure quickens into life, takes root, 
and develops in form, nature and character. Our insti- 
tutions constitute the basis, the matrix, from whence 
spring all our characteristics of development and great- 
ness. Look at Greece ! There is the same fertile soil, 
the same blue sky, the same inlets and harbors, the 
same ^gean, the same Olympus— there is the same 
land where Homer sung, where Pericles spoke — it is in 
nature the same old Greece ; but it is living Greece no 
more. (Applause.) 

" Descendants of the same people inhabit the coun- 
try; yet what is the reason of this mighty differ- 
ence? In the midst of present degradation we see 
the glorious fragments of ancient works of art 
— temples with ornaments and inscriptions that 
excite wonder and admiration, the remains of a 
once high order of civilization, which have outlived the 
language they spoke. Upon them all, Ichabod is 
written — their glory has departed. Why is this so? I 
answer, their institutions have been destroyed. These 
were but the fruits of their forms of government, the 
matrix from which their grand development sprung; 
and when onca the institutions of our people shall have 
been destroyed, there is no earthly power that can 
bring back the Promethean spark to kindle them here 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 39 

again any more than in that ancient land of eloquence, 
poetry and song. (Applause.) The same may be said 
of Italy. Where is Kome, once the mistress of the 
world? There are the same seven hills now, the same 
soil, the same natural resources; nature is the same; 
but what a ruin of human greatness meets the eye of 
the traveler throughout the length and breadth of that 
most down-trodden land! Why have not the people of 
that heaven-favored clime the spirit that animated their 
fathers? Why this sad difference? It is the destruc- 
tion of her institutions that has caused it. And, my 
countrymen, if we shall in an evil hour rashly pull 
down and destroy those institutions which the patriotic 
hand of our fathers labored so long and so hard to 
build up, and which have done so much for us and for 
the world, who can venture the prediction that similar 
results will not ensue? Let us avoid them if we 
can. I trust that the spirit is amongst us that will 
enable us to do it. Let us not rashly try the experiment 
of change, of pulling down and destroying, for, as 
in Greece and Italy and the South American republics, 
and in every other place, whenever our liberty is once 
lost, it may never be restored to us again, (Ap- 
plause.) ..... 

1 ' When I look around and see our prosperity in every- 
thing — agriculture, commerce, art, science, and every 
department of progress, physical, mental, and moral — 
certainly, in the face of such an exhibition, if we can, 
without the loss of power or any essential right or in- 
terest, remain in the Union, it is our duty to ourselves 
and to posterity to do so. Let us not unwisely yield to 
this temptation. Our first parents, the first progeni- 
tors of the human race, were not without a like temp- 
tation when in the Garden of Eden. Thev were led to 



40 THE LIFE OF 

believe that their condition would be bettered — that 
their eyes would be opened — and that they would be- 
come as gods. They in an evil hour yielded; instead of 
becoming gods, they only saw their own nakedness. 

" I look upon this country with our institutions, as 
the Eden of the world, the Paradise of the universe. 
It may be that out of it we may become greater and 
more prosperous ; but I am candid and sincere in tell- 
ing you that I fear if we yield to passion, and without 
sufficient cause shall take that step, that instead of be- 
coming greater or more peaceful, prosperous, and happy 
— instead of becoming gods, we will become demons, 
and at no distant day commence cutting one another's 
throats. This is my apprehension. Let us, therefore, 
whatever we do, meet these difficulties, great as they 
are, like wise and sensible men, and consider them in 
the light of all consequences which may attend our 
actions. Let us see first clearly where the path of duty 
leads, and then we may not fear to tread therein. " 



CHAPTER V. 

THE SOUTH CAROLINA SECESSION ORDINANCE, AND CON- 
VENTIONS IN SIX OTHER SOUTHERN STATES — THE 
GEORGIA CONVENTION — MR. STEPHENS' VIEWS ON 
SECESSION — HE IS ELECTED A MEMBER OF THE 
GEORGIA CONVENTION, AND VOTES AGAINST SECES- 
SION — ELECTED VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDER- 
ACY. 

On December 20, 1860, the South Corolina conven- 
tion of the people passed an Ordinance of Secession, 
repealing the ordinance which ratified the Constitution 
of 1788, and thus restoring South Carolina to the posi- 
tion of a separate and independent sovereign State. 
The six States of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Geor- 
gia, Louisiana and Texas followed the example of 
South Carolina, and called conventions. That of Geor- 
gia was called to meet at Milledgeville, on January 
16th, 1881. In a letter to his brother, Linton Stephens, 
written at about this time, Alexander II. Stephens ex- 
pressed liis views concerning such action as had already 
taken place, or was impending on the part of the 
Southern States. In this letter he wrote as follows: 

"I have read the address put forth by the convention 
at Charleston to the Southern States. It has not im- 



£2 THE LIFE OF 

pressed me favorably. In it South Carolina clearly 
shows that it is not her intention to be satisfied with 
any redress of grievances. Indeed, she hardly deigns 
to specify any. The slavery question is almost entirely 
ignored. Her greatest complaint seems to be the tariff, 
though there is but little intelligent or intelligible 
thought on that subject. Perhaps the less she said 
about it the better. For the present tariff, on which she 
secedes, is just what her own senators and members 
in Congress made it. There are general and vague 
charges about consolidation, despotism &c, and the 
South having, under the operation of the general 
government, been reduced to a minority incapable of 
protecting itself, etc. This complaint I do not think 
well founded. It arises more from a spirit of peevish- 
ness, or restless fretfulness, than from calm deliberate 
judgment. The truth is, the South, almost in mass, 
has voted, I think, for every measure of general legis- 
lation that has passed both houses and become law, for 
the last ten years. Indeed, with but few exceptions, 
the South has controlled the government in its every 
important action, from the beginning. The protective 
policy was once, for a time, carried against the South ; 
but that was subsequently completely changed. Our 
policy ultimately prevailed. The South put in power 
—or joined a united country in putting in power and 
sustaining the administration of Washington, for eight 
years. She put in and sustained Jefferson eight years, 
Madison eight years, Jackson eight years, Van Buren 
four years, Tyler four years, Polk four years, Pierce 
four years, and Buchanan four years. That is, they 
have aided in making and sustaining the administration 
for sixty years out of the seventy- two of the govern- 
ment's existence. Does this look like we were or are 



ALEXANDER II STEPHENS. 43 

in an abject minority, at the mercy of a despotic 
northern majority rapacious to rob and plunder us? It 
is true, we are in a minority, and have been a long 
time. It is true also that the party at the North 
advocate principles which would lead to a despotism, 
and they would rob us if they had the power — I 
have no doubt of tLat. But by the prudent and wise 
counsels of southern statesmen, this party has been 
kept in the minority in the past, and by the same pru- 
dent and wise statesmanship on our part I can but hope 
and think it can be so for many long years to come. 
Sound constitutional men enough at the North have 
been found to unite with the South to keep that danger- 
ous and mischievous faction in the minority, and though 
Lincoln has been elected, it ought to be recollected that 
he has succeeded by a minority vote, and even this was 
the result of a dissension in the ranks of the conserva- 
tives or constitutional men north and south, a most un- 
fortunate and lamentable event, and the more so from 
the fact that it was designedly effected by men who 
wished to use it for ulterior ends and objects. 

" Now we have real causes of complaint against the 
North, — or at least against certain States of the North, 
— causes which, if not redressed, would justify the ex- 
treme course, the ultima ratio, on the part of the South. 
These, however, are barely glanced at in the South 
Carolina address. These causes are the ' Personal 
Liberty Acts,' as they are called, in several of the 
Northern States, and other acts of their Legislatures 
which openly and avowedly refuse obedience to, or 
compliance with, their constitutional obligation to 
return fugitive slaves. These acts are in flagrant 
violation of constitutional obligations; and they con- 



44 THE LIFE OF 

stitute tjie only cause, in my opinion, which can 
justify secession. All other complaints are founded on 
threatened dangers which may never come and which 
I feel very sure could be averted if the South would 
pursue a judicious and wise course. Whether we ought 
to secede in consequence of the faithlessness of those 
Northern States alluded to is simply a question of 
policy. It is one on which able men and true may 
differ. One thing is certain: the South would be justi- 
fied in doing it. For nothing is better settled by all law, 
recognized by savage as well as by civilized people, than 
that a compact broken by one party to it is not binding 
on the other. But if we secede, I should like to see it put 
on the right ground; and while I think the ground 
would fully justify the act, yet I do not think it would 
at present be wise to resort to that remedy. For I feel 
confident that, if we should adopt the right course, 
those states would recede and repeal their obnoxious 
statutes. Hence I am mortified and grieved when I 
read such papers as the South Carolina manifestOc It 
is not on the right line. 

" But I am grieved at almost everything I see and hear 
every day. The times are fearfully distempered. I am 
fully persuaded of one thing, and that is, there is no 
power on earth that can bring any good out of the 
present state of things. The progress of events cannot 
be arrested. . . . 

" I must confess in the darkness and gloom that hang 
upon the future I see no prospect and but little hope 
for good government ever again in this country, North 
or South. The mischievous faction at the North will 
bear sway there. Constitutional liberty they never 
understood, or did not like, if they did. How it will 
be with us at the South time must disclose ; but 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 45 

when our public men act so unwisely under present 
circumstances, I cannot hope for much under their 
rule in the days of real peril. We are on the high road, 
to ruin I verily believe. How far a man can, consist- 
ently with a proper sense of duty to his country, 
abandon it to its fate when he sees its fate inevitable, I 
will not undertake to say. But this country, as it was 
and has been, is entirely demoralized if not ruined. It 
is beyond the power of salvation." 

Mr. Stephens, though strongly opposed to acting 
with the Convention called by the State of Georgia — 
having informed his brother Linton that he would not 
have allowed bis name to be presented for membership 
"but that the latter was also a candidate — did conclude 
to accept his election, and the two brothers acted with 
the convention that met at Milledgeville en the 16th of 
January. Mr. Stephens addressed the convention, op- 
posing the policy of secession, and setting forth his 
belief and the reasons for it, that the interests of the 
South, as well as of the whole country, demanded a 
reconciliation, and that the States should continue to 
remain united under the Constitution "with a faith- 
ful performance by each, of its constitutional obliga- 
tions." He closed in the following language: 

" My judgment, as is well-known, is against the 
policy of immediate secession for any existing 
causes. It cannot receive the sanction of my vote; 
but if the judgment of the majority of this conven- 
tion, embodying as it does the Sovereignty of Georgia 
be against mine; if a majority of the delegates in this 
convention shall, by their votes, dissolve the com- 
pact of union which has connected her so long 
with her Confederate States, and to which I have been 



46 THE LIFE OF 

so ardently attached, and which I have made such 
efforts to continue and to perpetuate upon the principles 
on which it was founded, I shall bow in submission to 
that decision." 

The ordinance for immediate secession passed the 
coDvention by a vote of 208 to 89, Mr. Stephens voting 
no. In the end, all the delegates present, including 
Mr. Stephens, signed the ordinance except six, who 
entered on the journal a declaration of their purpose to 
yield to the will of the majority of the people of the State. 
Mr. Stephens was soon afterward elected to the Provi- 
sional Government at Montgomery, much against his 
wish, and he hesitated some days whether or not to 
accept. He, in fact, made his acceptance conditional 
on the passage by the convention of two resolutions 
referring to the mode of organization of the Provis- 
ional Government; and the subsequent formation of 
a permanent government, which resolutions were passed 
unanimously, the second of them being as follows : 

" Be it resolved that said delegates be likewise author- 
ized, upon like consultation with the delegates from the 
other States in said Congress to agree upon a plan of 
permanent government for said States, upon the prin- 
ciples and basis of the Constitution of the United States 
of America, which said plan or Constitution of per- 
manent government shall not be binding or obligatory 
upon the people of Georgia unless submitted to, ap- 
proved and ratified by this Convention." 

Mr. Stephens was appointed by the convention on the 
committee for the formation of the constitution for a 
provisional government. His reputation as a parlia- 
mentarian was unrivaled, and it fell to his duty to 



ALEXANDER R, STEPHENS. 47 

draw up the rules for the Southern Congress. After 
the formation of the Constitution, Alexander H. 
Stephens was unanimously elected Vice-President of 
the Confederate States of America. In returning 
thanks, on the occasion of the serenade, on the even- 
ing of his election, Mr. Stephens said : 

" Sufficient to say that this day a new republic has 
been born — the Confederate States of Ameri ca has been 
ushered into existence to take its place amongst the 
nations of the earth — under a temporary or provisional 
government, it is true, but soon to be followed by one 
of a permanent character, which, while it surrenders 
none of our ancient rights and liberties, will secure 
more perfectly, we trust, the peace, security and 
domestic tranquility that should be the objects of all 
governments. 

u What is to be the future of this new government — 
the fate of this new republic — will depend upon our- 
selves. Six States only, at present, constitute it — but 
six stars, as yet, appear in our constellation — more, we 
trust, will soon be added. By the time of the adoption 
of the constitution of the permanent government, we 
may have a greater number than the original thirteen — 
of the original Union, and with more than three times 
their population, wealth and power. With such a 
beginning, the prospect of the future presents strong 
hopes to the patriot's* heart, for a bright and prosper- 
ous career. But what that future shall be, depends, I 
say, upon ourselves and those who shall come after us. 
Ours is a republic. And all republics, to be permanent 
and prosperous, must be supported by the virtue, intel- 
ligence, integrity, and patriotism of the people. These 
are the corner-stones upon which the temple of popular 



48 THE LIFE OF 

liberty must be constructed, to stand secuiely and per- 
manently. Resting ours upon these, we need fear 
nothing from without or from within. With a climate 
unsurpassed by any on earth ; with staples and produc- 
tions which control the commerce of the world; with 
institutions, so far as regards our organic and social 
policy, in strict conformity to nature and the laws of 
the Creator, whether read in the Book of Inspiration, 
or in the great book of manifestations around us, we 
have all the natural elements essential to the attainment 
of the highest degree of honor, glory and renown. 

" These institutions have been much assailed. It is 
our mission to vindicate the great truths on which they 
rest, and with them to exhibit the highest type of civil- 
ization which it is possible for human society to reach. 
In doing this, our policy should be marked by a desire 
to preserve and maintain peace with all other states and 
peoples. If this cannot be done, let not the fault lie at 
our door. While we should make aggressions on none, 
we should be prepared to repel them if made by others, 
let it come from whatever quarter it may. We ask of 
all others simply to be let alone, and to be permitted to 
work after our own safety, security, and happiness, in 
our own way, without molesting or giving offence to 
any other people. 

" Let then peace, fraternity, and liberal commercial re- 
lations with all the world, be our motto. With these 
principles, without any envy toward other states in the 
line of policy they may mark out for themselves, w T e 
will rather invite them to a generous rivalship in all 
that develops the highest qualities of our nature." 



CHAPTEE VI. 

THE - ' CORNER-STONE " SPEECH AT SAVANNAH— MR. 
STEPHENS' VIEWS CONCERNING SLAVERY — SPECIAL 
CONFEDERATE COMMISSIONER TO VIRGINIA — AD* 
DRESS AT RICHMOND BEFORE THE CONVENTION. 

On March 21, 1861, Mr. Stephens delivered at Savan- 
nah, what has since been known as " The Corner-stone 
Speech," this title being based upon his assertion of 
his opinion of the policy of the Southern States in 
regard to slavery, which he recognized as the " corner- 
stone " of the new government. In setting forth his 
views as to this question, Mr. Stephens made use of the 
following language: 

" But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous 
changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other 
— though last, not least. The new constitution has put 
at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to 
our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists 
amongst us— the proper status of the negro in our form 
of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the 
late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his 
forecast, had anticipated this, as the ' rock upon which 
the old Union would split/ He was right. What was 
conjecture with him, is nov a realized fact. But 



50 THE LIFE OF 

whether he fully comprehended the great truth 
upon which that rock stood and stands, may be 
doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him 
and most of the leading statesmen at the time of 
the formation of the old constitution, were that the en- 
slavement of the African was in violation of the laws of 
nature; that it was wrong \x\ principle, socially, morally, 
and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how 
to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that 
day was that, somehow or other in the order of Provi- 
dence, the institution would be evanescent and pass 
away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Consti- 
tution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The Consti- 
tution it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the 
institution while it should last, and hence no argument 
can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees 
thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the 
day. These ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong; 
they rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. 
This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the 
government built upon it fell when the ' storm came 
and the wind blew. 

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the 
opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone 
rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to 
the white man ; that slavery — subordination to the 
superior race — is his natural aud normal condition. 

"This our new government is the first in the history 
of the world based upon this great physical, 
philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has 
been slow in the process of its development, like 
all other truths in the various departments of 
science. It has been even so amongst us. Many 
who hear me perhaps can recollect well that this truth 



ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS. 51 

was not generally admitted, even within their day. 
The errors of the past generation still clung to many as 
late as twenty years ago. Those at the North who 
still cling to these errors with a zeal above knowledge, 
we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs 
from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in rea- 
soning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most 
striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, 
is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erro- 
neous premises. So with the anti-slavery fanatics. 
Their conclusions are right if their premises were. 
They assume that the negro is equal, and hence con- 
clude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights 
with the white man. If their premises were correct, 
their conclusions would be logical and just — but their 
premises being wrong, their whole argument fails. I 
recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one 
of the Northern States, of great power and ability, an- 
nounce in the House of Representatives, with imposing 
effect, that we of the South would be compelled ulti- 
mately to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was 
as impossible to war successfully against a principle in 
politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the 
principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in main- 
taining slavery as it exists with us, were warring 
against a principle, a principle founded in nature, 
the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made 
him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, 
ultimately succeed, and that he and his associ- 
ates, in this crusade against our institutions, would 
ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was 
as impossible to war successfully against a prin- 
ciple in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I 
admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting 



52 THE LIFE OF 

with him, who were warring against a principle. They 
were attempting to make things equal which the 
Creator had made unequal. 

" In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, 
complete throughout the length and breadth of the Con- 
federate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our 
social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit my- 
self to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition 
of this principle throughout the civilized and enlight- 
ened world. 

" As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be 
slow in development, as all truths are aud ever have 
been, in the various branches of science. It was so 
with the principles announced by Galileo — it was so 
with Adam Smith and his principles of political econ- 
omy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the cir- 
culation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one 
of the medical profession, living at the time of the an- 
nouncement of the truths made by him, admitted them. 
ISTow, they are universally acknowledged. May we 
not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate 
universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which 
our system rests? It is the first government ever 
instituted upon the principles in strict con- 
formity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in 
furnishing the materials of human society. Many gov- 
ernments have been founded upon the principle of the 
subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the 
same race ; such were and are in violation of the laws of 
nature. Our system commits no such violation of 
nature's laws. With us, all of the white race, however 
high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the 
law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his 
place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 53 

is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our 
system. The architect in the construction of builings, 
lays the foundation with the proper material — the 
granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The sub- 
stratum of our society is made of the material fitted by 
nature for it, and by experience we know, that it is 
best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior 
race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity 
with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to 
inquire into the wisdom of his ordinances, or to ques- 
tion them. For his own purposes, he has made one 
race to differ from another, as he has made ' one star 
to differ from another star in glory.' 

4 'The great objects of humanity are best attained 
when there is conformity to his laws and decrees, in 
the formation of governments as well as in all things 
else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in 
strict conformity with these laws. This stone which 
was rejected by the first builders ' is become the chief 
of the corner ' — the real ' corner-stone ' — in our new 
edifice." 

On April 23, 1861, Mr. Stephens appeared before the 
Virginia Secession Convention, at Kichmond, as a 
special commissioner from the newly formed Confeder- 
ate States, to the government of Virginia, to invite that 
State to a representation in the Confederate councils. 
In the course of his address, Mr. Stephens spoke as 
follows : 

4 'Under the latitudinarian construction of the Con- 
stitution which prevails at the North, the general idea 
is maintained that the will of the majority is supreme; 
and as to constitutional checks or restraints, they have 
no just conception of them. The Constitution was, at 



54 THE LIFE OF 

first, mainly the work of Southern men, and Virginia 
men at that. The government under it lasted only so 
long as it was kept in its proper sphere with due re- 
gard to its limitations, checks and balances. This, 
from the origin of the government, was effected main- 
ly by Southern statesmen. It was only when all further 
effort seemed to be hopeless to keep the federal govern- 
ment within its proper sphere of delegated powers, 
that the Confederate States, each for itself, resumed 
those powers and looked out for new safeguards for 
their rights and domestic tranquility. These are found 
not in abandoning the Constitution, but in adhering 
only to those who will faithfully sustain it. 

" We have rescued the Constitution from utter anni- 
hilation. This is our conviction, and we believe history 
will so record the fact. You have seen what we have 
done. Our Constitution has been published. Perhaps 
most of you have read it. If not I have a copy here, 
which is at the service of any who may wish to examine 
it. It is the old Constitution, with all its essentials, and 
some changes, of which I may speak presently. 

"It is upon this basis we are looking to your union 
with us; first, by the adoption of the provisional Consti- 
tution, and then of the permanent one, in such a way 
as you may consider best, under the limitations of your 
powers. This I may be pardoned for pressing upon 
the convention, and expressing the hope that they may 
do it, utterly ignoring all past differences of opinion. 

" In all bodies of men, differences of opinion may be 
expected; but the disagreements and differences with 
you, as was the case with us, will perhaps be found to 
relate more as to the mode of action, than to the pro- 
priety and necessity of action of some sort. As to differ- 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 55 

ences in the past, on the subject of union and secession, 
let them be buried and forgotten forever. 

" My position and views upon these questions in the 
past may be known to you. If not, it may be proper 
to state, and I feel no reluctance in declaring, in your 
presence here in the capitol of the old commonwealth 
of Virginia, that there never breathed a human spirit 
on the soil of America more strongly and devoutedly 
attached to the Union of our fathers than I. I was, how- 
ever, in favor of no Union that did not secure perfect 
equality and protection of all rights guaranteed under 
the Constitution. I was not insensible of the fact that 
several of the Northern States had openly repudiated 
their constitutional obligations, and that if the prin- 
ciples of the present dominant party should be carrried 
out, ultimate separation was inevitable. But still, I 
did trust that there was wisdom and patriotism enough 
at the North, when aroused, to correct the evils, to 
right the wrongs and to do us justice. I trusted even 
to the last, for some hopeful reaction in the popular 
sentiment at the North. 

" I was attached to the Union, however, not on ac- 
count of the Union per se, but I was attached to it for 
what was its soul, its vitality and spirit; those were 
the living embodiments of the great principles of self- 
government, springing from the great truth, that the 
just powers of all governments are derived from the 
consent of the governed, as it was transmitted to us by 
our fathers. This is the foundation on which alone all 
constitutional liberty is and must be based — and to 
these principles I am to-day attached just as ardently as 
I ever was before, and I now announce to you my solemn 
conviction that the only hope you have for the preser- 
vation of these principles, is by your alliance with 



56 THE LIFE OF 

those who have rescued, restored and re-established 
them in the Constitution of the Confederate States — 
there is no hope in the States North. 

" The disagreements that existed in our State 
as to the course that we should pursue, before 
the last resort of secession was adopted, were 
more as to the mode and manner of redress, 
than as to the cause of the grievance or the griev- 
ance requiring redress. I take this occasion, in 
passing, to state to you, that in our convention there 
was considerable difference of opinion on this view of 
the subject. It may not be known to you that on that 
occasion, I disagreed with the majority on the course 
adopted. My vote was recorded against the secession 
ordinance in our State. I was for making one more 
effort, and for getting the whole South united if possi- 
ble in that effort for redress. 

i 'But when the State in her sovereign capacity deter- 
mined otherwise, my judgment was yielded to hers. 
My allegiance was due to her. My fortunes were 
linked with hers; her cause was my cause; and 
her destiny was my destiny. A large minority in 
that convention voted as I did. But after secession 
was determined on by the majority, a resolution 
was drawn up to the effect, that whereas the lack of 
unanimity on the passage of the ordinance, was owing 
more to a disagreement as to the proper mode at the 
time for a redress of existing wrongs and threatened 
wrongs, than as to the fact of the existence of such 
wrongs as required redress, therefore, after the mode 
and manner was adopted by a majority of the conven- 
tion, that all of us, as an evidence of our determina- 
tion to maintain the State in her chosen remedy, should 
sign the ordinance; and with that determination under 



ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS 57 

that resolution, every member of the convention 
except six, signed it. Those six also declared upon 
record a like determination on their part. So our 
State became a unit upon the measure, when it was 
resolved upon. All anterior differences amongst 
us were dropped. The cause of Georgia was the cause 
of us all ; and so I trust it will be in Virginia. Let all 
past differences be forgotten. Whether, if some other 
course had been adopted, our rights could have ulti- 
mately been secured in the old Union, is a problem now 
that can never be solved. I am free to confess, as I 
frankly do, that the late indications afford strong evi- 
dence that the majority at the North were bent upon 
our destruction at every cost and every hazard. At all 
events, we know that our only hope now is in our own 
strong arms and stout hearts, with unity among our- 
selves. Our course is adopted. We can take no steps 
backward. The time for compromise, if it ever existed, 
is past. ... 

" One good and wise feature in our new or revised 
constitution is, that we have put to rest the vexed 
question of slavery forever, so far as the confederate 
legislative halls are concerned. On this subject, from 
which sprung the immediate cause of our late troubles 
and threatened dangers, you will indulge me in a few 
remarks as not irrelevant to the occasion. The con- 
dition of the negro race amongst us presents a peculiar 
phase of republican civilization and constitutional 
liberty. To gome, the problem seems hard to under- 
stand. The difficulty is in theory, not in practical 
demonstration; that works well enough — theories in 
government, as in all things else, must yield to facts. 
No truth is clearer than that the best form or system 
of government for any people or society is that which 



58 THE LIFE OF 

secures the greatest amount of happiness, not to the 
greatest number, but to all the constituent elements 
of that society, community or State. If our system 
does not accomplish this; if it is not best for the negro 
as well as for the white man; for the inferior as well as 
the superior race, it is wroog in principle. But if it 
does, or is capable of doing this, then it is right, and 
can never be successfully assailed by reason or logic. 
That the negroes with us, under masters who care for, 
provide for and protect them, are better off, and enjoy 
more of the blessings of good government than their 
race does in any other part of the world, statistics 
abundantly prove. As a race, the African is inferior 
to the white man. Subordination to the white man is 
his normal condition. He is not his equal by nature, 
and cannot be made so by human laws or human insti- 
tutions. Our system, therefore, so far as regards this 
inferior race, rests upon this great immutable law of 
nature. It is founded not upon wrong or injustice, but 
upon the eternal fitness of things. Hence its harmoni- 
ous working for the benefit and advantage of both. 
Why one race was made inferior to another is not for 
us to inquire. The statesman and the Christian, as 
well as the philosopher, must take things as they find 
them, and do the best he can with them as he finds 
them. 

4 i The great truth, I repeat, upon which our system 
rests, is the inferiority of the African. The enemies of 

our institutions ignore this truth 

We have heard much of the higher law. I believe my- 
self in the higher law. We stand upon that higher 
law. I would defend and support no constitution that 
is against the higher law. I mean by that the law of 
nature and of God. Human constitutions and human 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 59 

laws that are made against the law of Nature or of God, 
ought to be overturned; and if Seward was right, the 
Constitution which he was sworn to support, and is 
now requiring others to swear to support, ought to 
have been overthrown long ago. It ought never to 
have been made. But in point of fact it is he and his 
associates in this crusade against us, who are warring 
against the higher law — we stand upon the laws of the 
Creator, upon the highest of all laws. It is the fanatics 
of the North, who are warring against the decrees of 
God Almighty, in their attempts to make things equal 
which he has made unequal. My assurance of ultimate 
success in this controversy is strong from the convic- 
tion that we stand upon the right. . . . No human 
efforts or human laws can change the leopard's spots or 
the Ethiopian's skin. These are the works of Provi- 
dence — in whose hands are the fortunes of men as well 
as the destiny of nations and the distinctions of races. " 



CHAPTER VII. 

NORTHERN IMPRESSIONS OF MR. STEPHENS — CHAGRIN 
AT HIS ACCEPTANCE OF SECESSION — THE REAL 
"CONSISTENCY" OF HIS ACTION — HIS ADVICE AND 

f COUNSEL TO THE SOUTH — HIS OPINION OF THE IM- 
PORTANCE OF COTTON AS A " COMMERCIAL KING " — 
HIS DIFFERENCE WITH THE CONFEDERATE GOVERN- 
MENT. 

These quotations from Mr. Stephens' utterances in 
the few months which elapsed between his address 
before the Legislature at Milledgeville, after the elec- 
tion of Lincoln, and his speech at Savannah, have 
been given at length, on account of the light which 
they throw upon the nature of the man, indomitable 
and unswerving from the convictions which had 
once taken possession of his mind — yet subordinating 
his actions and even his opinions to constituted author- 
ity, when this had once legitimately declared itself. 

The people of the North had learned with mingled 
surprise and delight of the position taken by Mr. 
Stephens in his speech of the 14th of November. So 
important was it deemed that Mr. Lincoln himself 
wrote an authograph note to Mr. Stephens, dated 
Springfield, November 30, 1860, asking him for a re- 
vised copy of the speech. It was indeed assumed — 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 61 

so thoroughly recognized was Mr. Stephens' powerful 
influence — that in the face of his opposition, no ordi- 
nance of secession would he passed by the State of 
Georgia. 

That this was a grave error, and a thorough misun- 
standing of the determination of all the Southern peo- 
ple, was soon shown by the passage of the Act in ques- 
tion. Mr. Stephens, however, continued to be re- 
garded as so much a friend of the Union, that his 
personal adherence to secession was deemed not only 
inconsistent- with his speech before the Legislature, but 
incompatible with his known Union sentiments. The 
astonishment and chagrin of the North was therefore 
universal, when he accepted the Vice-Presidency of the 
Confederacy, and to these sentiments were added a 
feeling of positive anger and almost contempt when he 
completed his seeming recantation by the terrible "cor 
ner-stone " speech at Savannah. From this period until 
the close of the war, the great "Georgia Commoner " was 
looked upon by his Northern critics as one who had de- 
scended from the lofty pinnacle to which he alone, of all 
the Southern statesmen, had reached, and who, either 
from personal interest, or because of moral cowardice, 
had surrendered his convictions, and with them his 
claim to an imperishable and honored memory. 

But the reader will have, we hope, long before this, 
perceived the entire consistency of Mr. Stephens' later 
position with his former, and with the principles of his 
entire political life. 

No influence is more domineering or tyrannical than 
the element which we term consistency. Fettered by 
this, the human mind is not permitted either to learn 
by the experience of the past or to form conclusions by 
forecasting the future; and those who most cry out and 



62 THE LIFE OF 

insist upon consistency in others, mean, by the term, 
agreement with their own opinions, rather than with 
that which is just or right. In every instance in Mr. 
Stephens' political life where a question was finally de- 
cided by legislative or other authority, it had been the 
habit of his mind and his act to submit, not only grace- 
fully but logically. With him, once a subject was con- 
cluded, there should be no more discussion or resistance 
In the matter in hand: 1. He had been a logical and 
consistent supporter of the Union all his life; he still 
held to his opinions in that regard. 2. He had believed 
in the institution of. slavery as divinely ordained, from 
the time when he could first distinguish the difference 
between slavery and freedom. 3. He believed in the 
right of a state to secede, under certain circum- 
stances, which he frequently enumerated. In the case 
of the present secession movement, he opposed it on the 
ground, first, that no occasion for it had jastly arisen 
within the Union, and which could not and probably 
would not be rectified within the Union: and, second, 
because he believed the movement to be impolitic, un- 
likely to succeed, and certain to result in disaster to the 
South if it failed to succeed. 

Consistently with these views, he opposed secession 
until it had become a fixed fact. Consistently with the 
same views, he announced slavery to be the corner- 
stone of the new government, of which he became the 
second executive officer. 

Mr. Stephens' theory of citizenship in the republic 
was a peculiar one, and on this he based his action in 
going out with his state. He simply did not believe 
that any man could be a citizen of the United States, 
or that the United States, as such, could create or ac- 
cept citizens. He recognized only citizenship as belong- 



LEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 63 

ing to states in their individual capacity; these states 
being confederated, to be sure, bat without, by this fact, 
having the political status of any individual member 
of the population altered or created. 

It will thus be seen that, holding the opinions which 
he did, Mr. Stephens could not honestly have taken any 
different action from that which resulted from his con- 
victions, and which was certainly both logically sound 
and sincere. 

During the Summer of 1861, Mr. Stephens was very 
active in his interest in affairs, and though for a time 
prostrated with sickness at his home in Crawf ordsville, 
was even there visited by public men, with whom he 
advised freely and at length concerning the important 
measures which were now a topic of general concern. 

Naturally, the first great need of the South, as it was 
in the North, was money. As Mr. Stephens put it in one 
of his letters to his brother Linton, about this time, 
" Independence and liberty will require money as well 
as blood. The people must meet both with promptness 
and firmness." As to this, he believed in a special tax, 
but also in the value of cotton for this purpose. " ' Cot- 
ton was King 'men said; but they should remember 
that it was not apolitical but a commercial king." 

The matter of raising a navy was at this time one 
which had awakened general interest, and this subject 
came before Mr. Stephens, and regarding it he made 
the following suggestion : 

" If the government would now buy one million of 
bales, for which they might afford to give ten cents a 
pound, which is two cents more than the market price, 
with these they could raise a navy that could compete 
successfully with the North. It is vain to expect relief 
from the blockade from foreign powers. We alone 



G4 THE LIFE OF 

could relieve ourselves of that; and our cotton, unless 
it was put to the use suggested, would be of little im- 
portance to us." 

But in his opinion on this subject, and as very soon 
appeared on many others, Mr. Stephens differed widely 
from the prevailing theories of the other members of 
the Confederate government. The tone of public 
opinion in the South was represented by such men as 
Jefferson Davis and Robert Toombs ; men whose im- 
pressions and hopes were based rather on their wishes 
and an enthusiastic confidence in the resources of the 
South, — which of course did them no discredit — than 
on sound judgment and a statesmanlike recognition of 
facts and conditions as they actually existed. But the 
whole South was now swept by a mad passion of ex- 
cited self-confidence, in the face of which the calm 
and dispassionate reasoning to logical conclusions from 
wise premises which characterized Mr. Stephens, ap- 
peared nothing short of treason to the dominant South- 
ern idea. 

For, although Mr Stephens had accepted the situation 
and gone with his State, he could not be considered in 
accord with the leaders of opinion in the Confederacy, 
and as a matter of fact he opposed the policy of con- 
scription, the suspension of the privilege of habeas 
corpus, the appointment of military governors in cities, 
and generally the subordination of the civil to military 
power. On these questions and others, he naturally 
clashed' with the government. Moreover, he had but 
little confidence in the capacity of the men who repre- 
sented the South in the Confederate Congress. To 
give his own language, " This is a very poor Congress. 
There are few men of ability in the House, in the 
Senate not more than two or three. Tom Semmes is 



ALEXANDER K STEPHENS. 65 

the ablest; the next are Barnwell, Hunter and Clay." 
He objected to the introduction of the West Point 
policy into the South, and as to this, he spoke as 
follows : 

"If the West Point policy should prevail fully we 
shall be beaten. If the Southern volunteer should 
come to forget that he is a gentleman (and that is what 
the West Point men say he must do), then it will be 
merely a struggle between matter and matter, and the 
biggest and heaviest body will break the other. We 
have less matter, and to have equal momentum we must 
have greater 'velocity than our enemies, — so to call our 
spirit and the consciousness of being gentlemen." 

On one occasion, in reply to a remark that the 
government had been acting with more energy lately, 
Mr. Stephens said: " The energy I discover now seems 
to me like that of a turtle after fire has been put upon 
his back." 

Asked when he expected to go back to Eichmond, 
he replied: " Not very soon; I can do no good there. 
The policy of the government is far against my judg- 
ment, and I am frequently embarrassed on account of 
this difference." 

The wisdom which Mr. Stephens displayed in re- 
gard to the affairs of his own section, and which has 
since been generally acknowledged, was strangely at 
fault when applied to consideration of the state of the 
North and its promise for the future. Doubtless, like 
many wise judges on both sides, he was misled by 
wrong information. A glimpse of his error in this re- 
gard may be had from the following paragraph of a 
letter written to his brother Linton, in the Summer of 
1862: — "It requires no statesmanship to see that the 
3 



66 THE LIFE OF 

North is already a despotism complete and fearful. 
The powers of it are daily becoming more widely dis- 
played and more intensely felt. Its march is onward. 
Blood will soon flow there as it did in France under 
the Directory. There will never, I apprehend, be any- 
thing like constitutional liberty in that country again. " 
In one of his many conversations, Mr. Stephens gave 
utterance to sentiments concerning the working of self- 
government by the people, and specially having relation 
to the success or failure of the system of the United 
States, utterances which were substantially sound and 
which the conclusions of many reasoning men all over 
the country will to-day sustain. 

" There was no fault in the Government of the 
United States. The difficulty was mainly with those 
in power and in the administration of it. The ma- 
chinery was good and sound; it was from the bad work- 
ing of it that the miseries came.'' 

"But," it was insisted, " it was a failure. And if 
from that cause the failure is more certain and more 
melancholy, might we not as well give up the ques- 
tion?" 

" By no means. I shall never be willing to give up 
constitutional liberty, or the doctrine that the people 
can easily and safely govern themselves upon the 
principles upon which our institutions rest. In 
our system, these principles rest upon the rights* 
and sovereignty of the States. For their support are 
requisite virtue, intelligence, patriotism, and con- 
stancy on the part of the great body of the people. 
When I see the apparent indifference of so many among 
us on the questions involving these essential principles 
of our liberties, and the success of our system, I must 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 67 

confess I have fears for the future. Still, I am far 
from giving it up. I think the system at the North is 
a failure. But our people are different. We have 
more virtue, and by far more political intelligence in the 
masses of our people than they have. The great body 
of our people here are honest, industrious, frugal, pure, 
and not disposed to look to Government for anything 
but wise and equal laws. In other words, they look to 
Government for nothing but justice. At the North the 
great mass look to Government as a means for a living 
by their wits in some way. Government with them is 
a license to rob and plunder in some way or other; and 
to get control of Government for these purposes is the 
highest object of their ambition. The people there, as 
well as their rulers, have been corrupted for years, — at 
least a large portion of them, if not the majority. The 
same thing is true of a portion of our people, and we 
have some corrupt leaders. But the great majority are 
not so. They understand their rights, and all they 
want of rulers is to give them good government.' So 
long as this shall predominate I shall never despair of 
the principles of self-government with our people." 



CHAPTER III. 

MR. STEPHENS* ILL HEALTH — "LIBERTY HALL " — DE- 
SCRIPTION OP HIS RESIDENCE AT CRAWFORDSVILLE 
— HOME LIFE AND HOSPITALITIES — PERSONAL AP- 
PEARANCE, AS DESCRIBED BY REV. W. H. MILBURN. 

From all that has been written, it will have been seen 
that Mr. Stephens was, to use his own mode of expres- 
sion, oft repeated, "of but little use to the Confederate 
Government." During the years of the war also, he 
was not exempt from the tortures and miseries of ill- 
health, which had so persisently remained with him 
through life. An extraordinary patience and serene sub- 
mission to pain, which had always characterized him, 
enabled him however, to distract his mind from himself, 
in great measure, and to devote his thoughts and much 
of his time to the all-engrossing events of the period. 
As we have said, his home at Craw fords ville was fre- 
quently sought by public men with whom he conversed 
freely. He also wrote voluminously to his friends and 
specially to his brother Linton, giving frank expression 
of his opinions on public questions as they arose. Dur- 
ing the Winter of 1863-64, his sufferings were extreme. 
New developments of disease, accompanied by excru- 
ciating suffering, strained h^s extraordinary constitution 
to the utmost. Notwithstanding this, a remarkable 



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ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 69 

feature of this period of his life, and indeed which had 
characterized it for the preceding twenty years, was 
the unflagging hospitality which was dispensed at 
" Liberty Hall," the well-known name of Mr. Stephens' 
residence at Crawfordsville. 

This residence was purchased by Mr. Stephens in 
1845, and then received from him the title which it 
ever afterwards retained. The town of Craw- 
fordsville, sixty-four miles from the city of Augusta, 
stands on a slope of the Alleghenies, between the Chat- 
tahoochee and Savannah Eivers, and at an elevation of 
about six hundred feet above the level of the sea. For 
many years it has been a rather forgotten place, the 
Georgia Railroad running through it serving rather to 
mark its decline than to awaken it to new animation or 
prosperity. It may be doubted, however, if there be any 
spot in the State of Georgia more dear to its people. 
On an elevation just outside of the town, near an old 
church and graveyard, stands the unpretending struct- 
ure, seen at intervals as one approaches, through a 
magnificent grove of oaks, in the midst of which it 
stands. It contains eight rooms; four of these on the 
upper floor being always, during the lifetime of the 
owner, prepared for the reception of the guests who 
almost constantly occupied them. In the rear of the 
building were the library and bedroom of Mr. Stephens, 
and, strangely and pathetically enough, the only orna- 
ment, so to speak, in the library of Alexander H. Ste- 
phens, was the bust of Daniel Webster. Concerning the 
nature of Mr, Stephens' home life, one of his biograph- 
ers writes as follows : 

" There was probably no home in Georgia where the 
old-fashioned virtue of hospitality was — and still is— 



70 THE LIFE OF 

practiced on a more liberal scale than at Liberty Hall. 
For many years it has been Mr. Stephens' practice, 
during court week, to entertain all the lawyers in attend- 
ance from other counties. As he lived on the line of 
the railroad, every one who passed between Augusta 
and Atlanta, whether previously acquainted with him 
or not, felt entirely free to favor Mr. Stephens with a 
brief call — a visit of a day or two, or a stay of several 
weeks, as they might feel inclined. Some came out 
of respect, some from curiosity, some to ask pecuniary 
assistance, and many from the feeling that his house 
was open to everybody. As for the people of Talia- 
ferro County, there was not a man, woman, or 
child there who did not feel as much at home in Mr. 
Stephens' house as in their own, which they were 
free to enter at any time and stay as long as they 
pleassd. So it can be easily surmised that, although 
his personal manner of living has always been of the 
simplest kind, his domestic expenses have been exceed- 
ingly heavy 

" Rarely does a chance visitor call at Liberty Hall at 
dinner-time, that he does not find other guests, some of 
whom were as little expected as himself. Mr. Johnston 
has often seen a plain countryman walk into Mr. 
Stephens' office, where the latter was writing, and after 
an exchange of greetings not a word has been spoken 
until dinner was announced. Immediately after dinner 
the guest has departed with as little ceremony as graced 
his entry; very frequently first asking and receiving an 
order on the village store for groceries, or a pair of 
shoes, or a frock for his wife. It may be thought that 
this practice does not tend to improve the independ- 
ence and self-respect of the stalwart yeomen of Talia- 
ferro; but they seem to feel that they stand in a dif- 



ALEXANDER H STEPHENS, 71 

ferent and closer relation to Mr. Stephens than to the 
rest of their more affluent neighbors. 

" Mr. Stephens, however, never allows himself to be 
incommoded by these visitations. If he is occupied, 
he welcomes his guests and then continues what he has 
in hand, leaving them to entertain themselves. His 
dinner-hour is never postponed; and whether his guests 
be few or many, they must content themselves with 
what is already prepared or can be got ready without 
delay." 

And in connection with the residence of Mr. Ste- 
phens, the following description of his appearance at 
home will not be out of place. It was written by a 
special correspondent of the New York Herald, com- 
missioned to visit the statesman, shortly before the 
Presidential election of 1860. 

" The first object that met our view was that of a 
person, apparently a slightly formed youth, walking 
thoughtfully through a wide passage-way that extended 
from one side of the dwelling to the other, and open to 
the air and sunshine at either end. On approaching 
this slight, apparently fragile personage, we discov- 
ered at once, from his deeply marked and careworn 
features, his broad forehead, his intelligent and elo- 
quent black eye, it was no youth who stood before us, 
but Mr. Stephens himself. He now weighs ninety -two 
pounds, and weighed but eighty-four when he com- 
menced law practice in Crawfordsville 

"Besides his home residence in Crawfordsville, 
which covers about thirty acres of land, including a 
fine peach and apple orchard, a garden in which the 
pomegranates are now bursting with their luscious 
sweets, fig-trees overshadow the ground, and roses of 



72 THE LIFE OF 

the finest varieties are in full bloom, Mr. Stephens has 
a plantation about two miles distant, embracing a 
thousand acres of land. A portion of this plantation 
belonged to his parents. His grand-father died 
and was buried on the spot; his father and mother 
lived and died there, and the property falling into 
other hands, it was not until the expiration of many 
years that Mr. Stephens was enabled to achieve 
the proudest object of his life's ambition, the 
redemption of his patrimonial estate. He has since 
added considerably to its proportions, and by improv- 
ing its culture rendered it one of the finest plantations 
in the county. 

■*######## 

1 ' During the ride through his plantation, Mr. Stephens 
pointed out his vineyard, comprising four acres of land. 
The vines are of the Catawba vareity, in healthful con- 
dition, and produce, Mr. Stephens calculates, several 
hundred gallons of wine. He has also near his resi- 
dence about an acre of land in which he has planted 
what he intends shall be a model vineyard, and from 
its fine situation, the thriftiness of the first year's 
growth, and other significant reasons, there is no doubt 
his expectations will be realized. Mr. Stephens devotes 
considerable of his time to his plantation, and a day 
or two since might have been seen sowing rye in one of 
his fields. " 

The personal appearance of Mr. Stephens always 
surprised those who were brought in contact with him. 
Perhaps the best description of him as he appeared 
when in the prime of his ability and at the height of 
his personal popularity, was given by Rev. William 
Henry Milburn, well-known as the "Blind Preacher," 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 73 

and who was at one time Chaplain of Congress. He 

says: 

" Alexander Hamilton Stephens is the most powerful 
orator in Congress, and that with all the odds against 
him. When standing he is a man of medium height, 
but when seated he looks like a boy, for his trunk is 
remarkably short, and his face exceeding youthful. 
Careless of his personal appearance, his hair falling in 
masses over his fine brow; his black, brown, or any 
other colored cravat (he seems not to know which) tied 
in a sailor's knot; his clothes fitting well, if he has been 
fortunate in his tailor (rarely the case); an immense 
gold chain, terminated by a heavy seal, falling from his 
watch fob, he presents an unpromising, not to say an 
out re appearance. When in repose, his face does not 
promise much more; pale, with a slightly sallow tinge, 
sometimes with a hectic flush upon his cheek, it seems 
to belong to a beardless boy. His arms and legs are 
very long, and his whole frame, not compactly knit, 
appears loose and awkward, and the victim of life-long 
disease. How nearly disease and genius may be associ- 
ated, is a question which I leave for physiologists and 
psychologists to settle. But I feel sure that sleepless 
nights and days of pain and fever have had much to do 
with the brilliant intellect of this remarkable man. 
His voice, too, in common talk, gives as little token 
of his power as his other features, for it is thin, 
high-pitched, and inclining to the falsetto. Trained as 
a lawyer at the Georgia bar, a wonderful school for 
the development of popular eloquence (for the jury 
system is pushed there to its remotest limits), he early 
displayed those gifts which have made his name so 
famous; a sharp incisive intellect, broad in its com- 



74 THE LIFE OF 

prehension, firm in its grasp, as keen in its percep* 
tlons, coupled with an emotional nature, delicate as it is 
strong, giving him an invincible hold upon the interest 
and sympathy of his hearers. Returned to the House 
of Representatives when scarcely thirty years of age, 
he had, by the time I first saw him, already gained the 
undivided ear of the House. When he stood up to 
speak, there was no lunching, chatting or apathy in 
the Hall, w r hich seemed divided between the silence 
and his voice. The almost feminine squeak of opening 
soon became a consistent ringing tone, penetrating every 
corner of the spacious apartment; and judging of his 
effect upon the ear, I can well believe what I have so 
often heard, that the impression of his presence upon 
the eye almost amounted to transformation. 

" In defence of his position he is at once logical and 
persuasive, setting his argument before you in a clear, 
light and striking attitude, insomuch that the remark 
of Mr. Horace Greely is justified, ' that you forget that 
you are listening to the most eloquent man in Wash- 
ington, and only feel that he is right.' 

"His manner is rapid, sometimes vehement, always 
collected. Having in an instant gained your absorbed 
attention, he wins your confidence by his apparent fair- 
ness of reasoning, until at length you submit yourself 
to his control without compunction, or the dread of his 
being overcome. The most brilliant, albeit the most 
satisfying part of his oratory, is seen when he turns 
upon his opponents. His powers of satire, ridicule, 
sarcasm and invective, are fearful, and yet the 
man of good breeding never forgets himself nor is 
hurried away into truculent abuse. Many a man has 
smarted or even withered under Mr. Stephens' irony 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 75 

or denunciation ; but I question if any has ever had 
cause to say that he was not a gentleman. 

"I fancy that there are several points of apparent 
resemblance between Mr. Stephens, and John Randolph 
of Roanoke ; but there must be more of real difference. 
Both have been the victims of disease whose origin 
dates far back in life, and each has consequently been 
the owner of a body, which, however equisitely it may 
have been strung, had been perilously sensitive. Both 
have exercised almost unequal sway upon the floor of 
Congress ; and both have been noted as masters in the 
art of offensive parliamentary warfare. Both have been 
admitted to be unimpeachably honest and fearless 
statesmen, shunning no danger, and braving every peril 
in maintenance of their peculiar and cherished convic- 
tions. But Mr. Randolph had scarcely a friend. Mr. 
Stephens has hardly an enemy. Bodily infirmity, if it 
did not master Mr, Randolph's will, soured his temper, 
and gave to his perfect diction the poison of wormwood, 
and to his spirit the gall of bitterness that verged upon 
misanthropy. Mr. Stephens has conquered suffering, 
and made himself strong and noble by entering heartily 
into the sweet charities of life." 



CHAPTER IX. 

MR. STEPHENS' GENEROSITY — AID TO STRUGGLING TAL- 
ENT — HIS APPEARANCE IN THE HOUSE OF REPRE- 
SENTATIVES — ADDRESS BEFORE THE GEORGIA AS- 
SEMBLY IN 1864 — THE HAMPTON ROADS CONFER- 
ENCE — ARREST AND IMPRISONMENT OF MR. 
STEPHENS — HE IS RELEASED, AND DEVOTES HIMSELF 
TO AUTHORSHIP — HIS DEATH, AND THE IMPRESSIVE 
CEREMONIES OF HIS FUNERAL. 

There would be no completeness to a sketch of Mr. 
Stephens which did not make emphatic reference to the 
kindliness and generosity of his nature. From the 
time when he first began to accumulate anything like a 
competence, it was his custom to devote a certain part 
of his income, as opportunity offered, to ameliorating 
the condition of young men ambitious of obtaining an 
education and incapacitated therefrom by poverty. Yet 
this was not done in the form of charity, or in any way 
calculated to hurt the sense of a proper personal pride 
which might, under different circumstances, have suf- 
fered; and it is pleasant to know, from Mr. Stephens' 
own statement, that in thirty such cases in which he 
had afforded assistance, only three failed to reimburse 
him therefor. In his relations to the people of his own 



ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS 77 

town and his own country, the liberal kindness of Mr. 
Stephens was peculiarly evident. 

In the Southern States, people are known by 
their county residence more especially than in any other 
way. It comes about, therefore, that there is an in- 
timacy of association among the inhabitants of a 
county, and so to speak, a sentiment of clanship, 
which does not in the least obtain in the North. It 
may readily be understood, therefore, that Mr. 
Stephens' well-known generous hospitality and his 
habit of keeping open house at " Liberty Hall" brought 
him into especialy friendly association with the people 
of Taliaferro County. 

But it was not alone in dispensing kindly aid to 
those less fortunate than himself that Mr. Stephens 
showed the tenderness of his nature. During the war, 
— and while, because of the blindness existing among 
the authorities who controlled the destinies of the Con- 
federate' States, his wise counsel was unsought where 
it would have been of the most service — he passed much 
of his time in visiting the hospitals and in doing all that 
lay in his power to relieve the necessities and lessen 
the pains of the sick and wounded. Such gentle at- 
tributes are surely not to be counted least in summing 
up the character of him who could, at the same time, 
occupy the position of a wise and great statesman and 
of a kind-hearted, tender and considerate man. 

Still another description of Mr. Stephens, as he ap- 
peared, while occupying his seat in the House of Repre- 
sentatives in Washington : 

" Near the bar of the House, to the right of the main 
isle, facing the speaker, sits a man whose singular ap- 
pearance always arrests the attention of the stranger. 



V8 THE LIFE OF 

You should note him well, for he is one of the marked 
characters of the House. 

" It is Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia. And do 
you call that curious-looking creature one of the marked 
characters of the House? Yes, every word of it. True, 
there is no mark of extraordinary intellectuality in his 
countenance; but draw him out in debate, do anything 
to set at work that powerful intellectual battery within, 
and that poor, sickly, emaciated frame, which looks as 
if it must sink under the slightest physical exertion, at 
once grows instinct with a galvanic vitality which 
quickens every nerve with the energy of a new life, 
imparts to every feature a high, intellectual expression, 
makes the languid eyes glow like living coals, and dif- 
fuses a glow of reviving animation over the palid 
countenance. 

" A new spirit seems to be awakened within him 
which transforms the whole man into a new creature in 
appearance. You cease to be annoyed by that voice 
which pierces the ear with its shrill and discordant 
tones, and the awkward gestures seem awkward no 
longer, for they are evidently prompted by nature. No 
wonder that nature has slighted the outward man, 
since she has lavished her rarest gifts upon the inward 
with unsparing profusion. The intellectual power of 
the man seems so to transfigure the outward appear- 
ance, so to transfer its quickening and transforming 
spirit into the physical nature, that the emaciated 
figure before you looks as much like intellect incarnate, 
as can well be imagined. 

"He hurries through the exordium, announces the 
subject, lays down Ins propositions, and advances at 
once to the argument, which he follows out with log- 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 79 

cal exactness, weaving into the thread of it such facts 
as are proper for illustrations, and drawing out conclu- 
sions which the most subtle ingenuity cannot avert. 
Now he advances to the arguments of the other side, 
dissects them with admirable delicacy, exposes a fallacy 
here and a misstatement of facts there; here a non 
sequite?% and there a petitio printipii ; now some insidious 
reflection upon the South touches his sensitive feelings 
on that subject, and forth there issues a flame of 
withering invective, which, made doubly hot by his 
envenomed sarcasm, scathes its victim as with the 
blasting touch of lightning; now he is all on fire with 
interest in his subject, and seems to catch the inspiration 
of eloquence, as, with more than mortal power, he 
summons forth the feelings of the audience, and sways 
them in alternate emotions of auger, indignation, pity, 
love, and all the passions of the human breast. 

"A death-like silence reigns over the vast Hall, 
broken only by the reverberating tones of the speaker's 
voice. Senators have deserted the other wing of the 
Capitol, and, side by side with members, are sitting as 
under a spell, which they cannot break; Mr. Speaker 
has thrown down his' hammer, which generally knows 
no rest, and has forgotten to keep an eye upon the clock 
that the member on the floor may not break through 
the ' hour rule; ' pages have almost lost their power of 
perpetual motion, and are now subdued into a stillness 
like unto death ; reporters look like ' mediums ' with 
the spell upon them, inditing revelations from the 
spirit world; while from the overhanging galleries, 
graced with a brilliant array of beauty and fashion, 
a thousand eyes are riveted on the speaker as on a 
4 charmer,' with an air of bewildered amazement, nor 
dare they turn to each other for a moment, for an inter- 



80 THE LIFE OF 

change of those sympathetic glances, which bring so 
much relief to the human heart when swayed by such 
emotions." 

In the Spring of 1864, when it was beginning to be 
discerned by the Southern leaders and the Southern 
people that their cause was hopeless, Mr. Stephens ad- 
dressed the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, 
reviewing those executive and Congressional errors 
which had in his opinion, wrecked and destroyed the 
Confederate government. In closing his address he used 
the following impressive language: 

' ' What fate or fortune awaits you or me, in the con- 
tingencies of the times, is known to us all. We may meet 
again, or we may not. But as a parting remembrance, 
a lasting memento, to be engraven on your memories 
and your hearts, I warn you against that most insidi- 
ous enemy which approaches with her syren song, 4 in- 
dependence first, and liberty afterward. ' It is a fatal 
delusion. Liberty is the animating spirit, the soul of 
our system of government; and like the soul of man, 
when once lost it is lost forever. There is for it no 
redemption, except through blood. Never for a 
moment permit yourselves to look upon liberty, that 
constitutional liberty which you inherited as a birth- 
right, as subordinate to independence. The one was 
resorted to to secure the other. Let them ever be held 
and cherished as objects co-ordinate, co-existent, co- 
equal, co-eval, and forever inseparable. Let them 
stand together 'through weal and through woe,' and if 
such be our fate, let them and us all go down together 
in a common ruin. Without liberty, I would not turn 
upon my heel for independence. 1 scorn all independ- 
ence which does not secure liberty! I warn you also 



ALEXANDER II STEPHENS. 81 

against another fatal delusion, commonly dressed up in 
the fascinating language of, ' if we are to have a master, 
who would not prefer to have a Southern one to a North- 
ern one?' Use no such language. Countenance none 
such. Evil communications are as corrupting in poli- 
tics as in morals. 

" ' Vice is a monster of such hideous mien. 
That to be hated, needs but to be seen. 
■ But seen too oft, familiar with her face, 

We first endure, then pity, then embrace.' 

" I would not turn upon my heel to choose between 
masters. I was not born to acknowledge a master from 
either the North or South. I shall never choose be- 
tween candidates for that office. I shall never degrade 
the right of suffrage in such an election. I have no 
wish or desire to live after the degradation of my coun- 
try, and have no intention to survive its liberties, if 
life be the necessary sacrifice of their maintenance, to 
the utmost of my ability to the bitter end. As for my- 
self, give me liberty as secured in the constitution with 
all its guarantees, amongst which is the sovereignty of 
Georgia, or give me death. This is my motto while 
living, and I want no better epitaph when I am dead. 

" Senators and Representatives, the honor, the rights, 
the dignity, the glory of Georgia, are in your hands. 
See to it as faithful sentinels on the watch-tower, that 
no harm or detriment come to any of those high and 
sacred trusts while committed to your charge." 

For the sentiments expressed in this speech, Mr. 
Stephens was savagely attacked by the organs of the 
Richmond government. Necessarily, there were small 
minds in the South, as there would have been elsewhere 
under similar circumstances, minds incapable of recog- 



82 THE LIFE OF 

nizing the grandeur of soul which had, in the early- 
days of the conflict, impelled the Great Commoner to 
sound the note of warning; and which now, at the 
close, gave him the right to offer them such advice 
and counsel as to him seemed good. Calm and dig- 
nified as a Eoman Senator, he did not hesitate to 
utter unpalatable truths, not because they were truths, 
and not because they were unpalatable, but because 
that there seemed to him to be some merit in them 
through which there might be saved from the wreck 
ct' his oountry, that liberty which he prized and for 
which, as he did not hesitate to declare, he would will- 
ingly have died. One Georgia journal, the Southern 
Confederacy published in Atlanta, recognized the 
nobility of character which dictated the wise recom- 
mendations of Mr. Stephens, and thus referred to them, 
conceding moreover, to the statesman the exact value 
of his earlier suggestions: referring to current news- 
paper attacks, this journal spoke as follows: 

" He is a person, in the first place, of an enlightened 
understanding. He adds to a fine intellect by nature, 
the cultivation of earnest inquiry and long experience. 
He has been a brilliant actor in public affairs, as well as 
a close student in his own library. His perceptions 
are clear; his vision far-sighted; his disposition tem- 
perate. No man but a fool can doubt the loyalty of 
his nature to fixed principles, for as a citizen and a 
statesman he is a man of integrity. He seems to have 
made the science of government a system of profound 
research, the good of his people his chief purpose; and, 
since the advent of the revolution, the success of our 
cause the aim of his existence. Had his counsels pre- 
vailed, we would have had peace this day. There is 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 83 

no sort of question of it; for they would have given us 
an army at the start, and a financial and diplomatic 
system throughout the war. The modest bearing, the 
earnest truths, the calm good sense, the sagacious 
hints, the eloquent pictures and appeals which 
gleam among the sturdy issues presented in his late 
speech, cannot fail to find the heart of all who read 
them; and he who rises from the perusal of that docu- 
ment, and has the bigotry to prate about what is called 
the 'Georgia Platform/ proclaims himself as unfit to 
enjoy a free country as he is to talk politics." 

In January, 1865, the arrangement for what has 
passed into history as the Hampton Roads Conference, 
was entered into between Jefferson Davis and Francis 
P. Blair, Sr., resulting in the meeting on February 3rd, 
between President Lincoln and Secretary Seward on 
the part of the United States, and Messrs. Stephens, 
Hunter and Campbell on the part of the Confederate 
States. This conference was originally devised for the 
purpose of bringing about such an agreement between 
the belligerents as to effect a suspension of hostilities 
and some combination through which the Monroe Doc- 
trine should be maintained as the united policy of both 
parties, and thus the establishment of the projected 
empire in Mexico by France be prevented. The con- 
ference took place on board a steamer anchored near 
Fortress Monroe, and which had arrived, having on 
board Mr. Lincoln, on the previous night, Mr. Seward 
having preceded him by a couple of days. The con- 
ference was informal and resulted in nothing, President 
Lincoln refusing to entertain any proposition whatever 
without the laying down of arms on the part of the 
South, as an act to precede all negotiations. After a 



84 THE LIFE OF 

desultory conversation, and some slight arrangement 
being made in regard to the exchange of prisoners, the 
conference terminated. The Confederate commissioners 
returned to Richmond and reported to Mr. Davis, and 
on the 9 th of February, Mr. Stephens returned to his 
borne in Crawfordsville, where he remained until the 
11th of May. 

On that day he was arrested at his house by the 
Federal Major-general Upton, and conveyed under 
guard to Atlanta, where he was taken charge of by 
Colonel Pritchard, who had already in his custody Mr. 
Davis and those captured with him. Mr. Stephens 
was transferred to Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, May 
25th, and remained there until released on parole 
October 12th. During the greater portion of the period 
of his incarceration, he was permitted to have the 
society of his brother Linton, and apart from the 
burden of confinement, his stay was made as comfort- 
able and convenient as possible. Early in the following 
year, Mr. Stephens testified before the Reconstruction 
Committee of Congress, and at this time he began writ- 
ing a work in two volumes, entitled ' ' A Constitutional 
Review of the Late War Between the States; Its Causes, 
Character, Conduct and Results, presented in a series 
of colloquies at Liberty Hall." This work met with a 
large sale. In 1870, he first contemplated writing a 
school history of the United States, which he after- 
wards completed. The following year he bought an 
interest in the Atlanta Sun, and for which he wrote 
political editorials, while also dictating its general 
policy as a Democratic newspaper. He was chosen a 
member of the Forty-third Congress, and though pre- 
vented by ill-health from taking a very prominent part 
in the debates, continued to hold his seat through four 



ALEXANDER H STEPHENS. 85 

congresses, and until a short time before his election as 
Governor of the State of Georgia, on the retirement of 
Alfred H. Colquitt, at the close of 1882. 

A succinct expression of the best Northern judgment 
concerning the ability and career of Alexander H. 
Stephen, is presented, possibly, in the following quo- 
tation from an editorial in Harpefs Weekly, which 
appeared immediately after his death : 

1 ' His gifts were unquestionable. Especially in earlier 
life his eloquence w 7 as fervent, persuasive and sympa- 
thetic, while he developed marked skill in debate. His 
energy was exhaustless, his knowledge of human 
nature varied and extensive, and his mastery of parlia- 
mentary tactics almost unequaled. At the same time, 
his grasp of constitutional law, his capacity for plausible 
reasoning, his ingenious mode of presenting his argu- 
ments, and his promptness in accepting accomplished 
facts, made him easily a leader of the party with which 
he cast in his fortunes. Had he been unhampered by 
the conditions, political and moral, which surrounded 
him, there is little room for doubt that he would have 
won great distinction; but it was his misfortune to be 
in servitude, unconscious but complete, to the terrible 
institution which determined the political career of 
every public man in the South, and which interposed a 
barrier that none succeeded in overthrowing or pass- 
ing." 

Mr. Stephens never married. Possibly one of the 
elements which went to make up his life, most emphas- 
ized by its claim on the consideration and tenderness 
of his countrymen, is to be found in the determination 
never to marry, imposed on him by his frail organiza- 



86 THE LIFE OF 

tion and constant illness. While there is no doubt that 
Mr. Stephens was one to whom marriage would have 
fulfilled its best ends if wisely undertaken, and while 
few men more needed the social atmosphere of the 
family, it is certain that he, early in life, discarded all 
hopes of ever reaching such a conclusion, and purely 
from a sense of his utter dependence, and with an 
unselfish disregard of his own feelings, certainly most 
honorable and most unusual. 

It is a part of his early history, that when exercising 
the functions of a teacher, his heart was deeply touched 
and his mind impressed with regard for a young lady, 
a pupil, who was herself not disinclined to him. It 
is related to have been one of the most serious shocks of 
his life when he resisted and broke down all his impulses 
and wishes in this direction, and literally fled from the 
scene of his enchantment. 

Another romance is related of him, the other party to 
which is still living at Atlanta, an unmarried lady 
highly esteemed by all who knew her. The period was 
about 1840, and the lady at the time not more than 
sixteen or seventeen years of age. They met and be- 
came interested in each other, and nearly ten years 
later, the acquaintance being renewed, their attach- 
ment became more serious, their relation amounting to 
an engagement. Occurrences of a private nature, de- 
lays and disappointments intervened and prevented 
their marriage, but both continued strong in their 
attachment and remained single each for the other's 
sake. In this instance also, Mr. Stephens' ill health 
had much to do with the result, and in considering him 
in every relation, it is to be remembered that he never 
knew a w 7 ell day in his life. He used to say that he 



ALEXANDER K STEPHENS. 87 

made it the rule of his life to live each day as if it were 
to be his last. 

We have already presented several descriptions of 
Mr. Stephens' personal appearance. During his last 
terms in Congress he occupied a wheeled chair, in 
which his worn face and emaciated figure, shrouded in 
a great cloak, made him an object of scrutiny and re- 
mark with all who visited the legislative chamber. 

Of all the portraits of him that have been made, the 
most satisfactory in all respects is that from the line 
engraving on steel by the distinguished artist, William 
Edgar Marshall, of which a very fine copy adorns 
this volume. A peculiar charm in this picture con- 
sists in the marvelous skill by which the artist has 
managed to include in his representation of the face 
one and all of the idiosyncracies and specially personal 
characteristics of this remarkable man. There never 
has been an artist who has succeeded in line engraving 
applied to portraiture in producing the vivid and 
powerful effects of Mr. Marshall. By his wonderful 
handling of light and shade, he succeeds in giving re- 
sults of tone, color and atmosphere, which, in simple 
black and white, are unusual and very striking. 

Alexander H. Stephens died at his home at Craw- 
fordsville, Georgia, at midnight on March 3rd, 1883, 
having just entered upon his seventy-second year. 

He had been on a visit to Savannah, and being ex- 
posed to sudden and violent changes of temperature, 
became seriously ill. His condition rapidly grew worse 
as he traveled homeward, and on his arrival he took to 
his bed, from which he never rose again. During the last 
week of his life, he became impressed with the serious 
nature of his condition, and while those about him, 
who had often seen him recover from apparently severer 



88 THE LIFE OF 

attacks, were very hopeful, he remarked several times 
that he was certain he was going to die. 

" I know exactly how much strength I have," he 
said, " and I believe I am going to die." 

Again he remarked, "The time will come at last 
when I will not have strength to rally, and this may be 
the time," At about half past ten, on the Saturday 
night of his death, Mr. Stephens sank into a deep 
stupor, from which he never rallied. His remains were 
taken to Atlanta and laid in state in the Executive 
Mansion, until the 8th, when the funeral took place, 
amid the most imposing ceremonies and in the presence 
of the most eminent men of Georgia — men with whom 
the life of the deceased had been intimately connected, 
socially and politically, during one of the most impres- 
sive and important periods of the world's history. The 
funeral ceremonies took place in Representatives' Hall, 
which was elaborately draped in mourning, Governor 
Colquitt presiding, and Governor Boynton, Generals 
Gordon and Toombs, Judge Crawford, Senator Brown, 
Ex-Governor Bullock, General Jackson, and many 
other prominent personages being present. Rev. Dr. 
De Witt Talmage, of Brooklyn, an old friend of the 
deceased, was present by invitation, and offered the 
closing prayer. 

Throughout the Southern States, and in various parts 
of the country, the day of the funeral was observed 
with appropriate ceremonies; and not the least impres- 
sive recognition of the event occurred in the Metropol- 
itan City of New York, whose City Hall displayed the 
State and National colors, in honor and memory of 
him who had once been Vice-President of the Confed- 
erate States of America. 

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LC ACQUISITIONS 



040 883 747 9